While the U.S. Senate Clears the Way for Homeland Security Funding and as the World Continues to Struggle with ISIS, Ukraine and Russia Continue to Struggle with Another Ceasefire

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Reuters reported on Thursday that the Senate moved Wednesday to advert a shutdown of U.S. domestic security agency this weekend by voting to clear the way for funding a funding bill that does not include the immigration issue. The vote came shortly after an appeal from the current and two former Security secretaries appealed to Congress to avoid the shutdown and give full funding for the department of Homeland Security this year. The final hurdle for passage will fall to the conservative Republicans in the House of Representatives who still oppose the bill and procedural negotiations that could delay the final vote beyond Friday’s funding deadline for the department. The agency set up after 9/11 coordinates domestic efforts to combat security threats like the recent Somali based Islamic militants against U.S. shopping malls and encompasses the Coast Guard, Transportation Security Administration as well as border, immigration and several other federal agencies. The original bill would of funded the agency with $39.7 billion until Republicans against Democratic President Barack Obama’s executive order lifted deportation threats of undocumented immigrants got in the way causing Republicans to approve the bill adding a provision to ban spending on the order. This in turn caused a deadlock that lasted weeks between Republicans and Democrats leading up to Wednesday’s vote. The 98-2 vote cleared the way to take out the House’s immigration provisions and leave the vote on immigration orders for a later date under the plan designed by Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell to end the deadlock. The overwhelming bipartisan support for McConnell’s approach means there is strong support for drama free funding for Homeland Security. Democrats have called for a clean Homeland bill all along without any immigration restrictions as Obama had threatened to veto the House passed measure. House Speaker John Boehner declined to tell Reuters if he would put the bill to a House vote even thought the deadline ends at midnight Friday. If no deal is reached, then Homeland Security would be forced to furlough about 30,000 employees or 15 percent of its workforce. This translate to many of the essential personnel such as airport and border security agents would have to wait to be paid until new funding is approved. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and some of his predecessors pleaded at a news conference for Congress to swiftly pass the funding bill. A cut-off in funds also would suspend grants to states to support local counter-terrorism activities.

As security issues at home become increasingly worrisome, the White House has said President Barack Obama would be open to negotiating with Congress for new authorization for military force against Islamic State militants including a three year limit on U.S. military action and use of American troops, according to the AP’s Nedra Pickler, Obama open to changes to military authority against IS. After a weeklong holiday break, lawmakers returned to Washington Monday and have started to consider the proposal with some Republicans saying it is too restrictive for the mission to succeed and some Democrats wanting more limitations on Obama’s authority so the U.S. doesn’t sign on for another open ended war. Obama is open to discussing every aspect of his proposal but firmly opposed to any geographic restriction on where the U.S. military pursues ISIS with strongholds in Iraq and Syria but have been operating across international boundaries. White House press secretary Josh Earnest stated, “I’m not at all going to be surprised if there are members of Congress who take a look at this legislation and decide, ‘Well, I think there are some things that we should tweak here, and if we do, we might be able to build some more support for. So I think it is fair for you to assume that this reflects a starting point in conversations.” Obama argues he doesn’t need new authority to legally pursue the militant group as he has been launching strikes based on authorizations given to President George W. Bush after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. However, critics say Obama’s use of this authority is a stretch and the White House has taken a new position making it clear it doesn’t see reliance on this authorization as ideal. Once new authority is signed into law, the White House says Obama will mot longer rely on the 2001 approved authority to purse the group and rely solely on the new powers. The White House added that Congress could make that clear in the new authorization. The change also prevents any future president from interpreting the law the way Obama has since last year. On Wednesday, the U.S. Justice Department announced the arrest of three men accused of planning or supporting ISIS in Syria, AP’s Deepti Hajela reports, Feds: 3 accused in Islamic State plot vocal about beliefs. Two men are charged with plotting to help the Islamic State group as evident by both online and personal conversations about their commitment and desire to join the extremists, federal authorities reported. Akhror Saidakhmetov, 19, was arrested at Kennedy Airport, where he was attempting to board a flight to Istanbul, with plans to head to Syria, authorities said. Another man, 24-year-old Abdurasul Hasanovich Juraboev, had a ticket to travel to Istanbul next month and was arrested in Brooklyn, federal prosecutors said. The two were held without bail after a brief court appearance. A third defendant, Abror Habibov, 30, is accused of helping fund Saidakhmetov’s efforts. He was ordered held without bail in Florida. If convicted, each faces a maximum of 15 years in prison. New York Police Department Commissioner William Bratton said this was the first public case in New York involving possible fighters going to the Islamic State, but he hinted at other ongoing investigations. According to the federal complaint, Saidakhmetov said he intended to shoot police officers and FBI agents if his plan to join the IS group in Syria was thwarted. Loretta Lynch, who is Obama’s choice to be U.S. attorney general, said “The flow of foreign fighters to Syria represents an evolving threat to our country and to our allies.” The Islamic State group largely consists of Sunni militants from Iraq and Syria but has also drawn fighters from across the Muslim world and Europe.

While the U.S. fights to thwart and contain the Islamic State, the rest of the world has not been so lucky in keeping ISIS as bay. On Tuesday, AP’s Zeina Karam reported, Dozens of Christians abducted by Islamic militants in Syria, the Islamic State militants before dawn raided homes in a cluster of villages along the Khabur River in northeastern Syria abducting at least 70 Christians as thousands fled to safer areas. The captives’, mostly women and children, fate was unclear Tuesday as relatives said mobile phone service was cut off and land lines were not working and heavy fighting in the area was reported. The Islamic State group has a history of killing captives, including foreign journalists, Syrian soldiers and Kurdish militiamen. Most recently, militants in Libya affiliated with the extremist group released a video showing the beheading of 21 Egyptian Christians. While the U.S. and coalition of regional partners conduct airstrikes against the group, the group has repeatedly targeted religious minorities since taking a third of both Syria and Iraq. The British based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights working with a network of activist in Syria have reported the number of Christians held by the group at 90. The extremists could use the Assyrian captives to try to arrange a prisoner swap with the Kurdish militias it is battling in northeastern Syria. Hassakeh province, where a majority of the captives come from, is strategically important due to sharing a border with Turkey and areas controlled by IS in Iraq. Kurdish militiamen from the People’s Protection Units, or YPG, backed by the coalition airstrikes, have made advances in the province in a new offensive launched this week. Heavy fighting broke out in the province Monday as Kurdish fighters and IS militants battled for control of villages near the Iraqi and Turkish borders. The Kurds have been one of the most effective foes of IS, a reputation they burnished in recent months by repelling an assault by the extremists on the town of Kobani on the Turkish border. The coalition carried out hundreds of airstrikes that helped the Kurds break the siege in January.

As the world tries to get a grip on the seemingly phantom group called ISIS, the ongoing ceasefire between Ukraine and Russia seems once again to have fallen apart as fighting continues to rage and Russia refuses to loosen its grip on Ukraine. On Wednesday, AP reported Russian courts refused to release Ukrainian prisoners whose fate has attracted global attention as Moscow’s City Court turned down an appeal by Nadezhda Savchenko’s lawyers leaving her to remain behind bars pending an investigation, according to the article, Russian court refuses to release Ukrainian prisoner. Savchenko, a Ukrainian military officer captured by Russia-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine in June and put in custody in Russia, is awaiting trial on charges of involvement in the deaths of two Russian journalists in eastern Ukraine. She denies the accusations. Russia claims Savchenko voluntarily crossed the border into Russia before she was detained, but she said she was dragged across the border into the Russian custody. Savchenko has been on a hunger strike since Dec. 13 demanding her release, and her lawyers on Wednesday voiced concern about her condition. More than 11,000 people including prominent cultural figures have petitioned Russian President Vladimir Putin urging Savchenko’s release. Even while in jail, Savchenko was elected to the Ukrainian parliament and named a delegate to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. The European Union and the United States have urged her release. Pavel Polityuk and Anton Zverev reported, Kiev Says It Can’t Withdraw Weaponry As Attacks On Ukrainian Troops Persist, the Ukrainian military said Monday it could not leave the front line in the east as required by the ceasefire due to pro-Russian separatists who advanced last week were attacking its position making it difficult to withdraw heavy weaponry. A truce to end fighting that has killed more than 5,600 people appeared stillborn last week after rebels ignored it to capture the strategic town of Debaltseve in a punishing defeat for Kiev. Nevertheless, the peace deal’s European sponsors still hold out hope it can be salvaged, now that the Moscow-backed separatists have achieved that objective. Spokesman Vladislav Seleznyov said in a televised briefing: “Given that the positions of Ukrainian servicemen continue to be shelled, there can not yet be any talk of pulling back weapons.” Anatoly Stelmakh, another military spokesman, said rebel forces had attacked the village of Shyrokyne overnight, along the coast on the road to Mariupol, a port of half a million that Kiev fears could be the next big rebel target. Rebel commander Eduard Basurin denied the fighters had launched any such attack, and said the situation was calm. Nearly a million people have been driven from their homes by the war between pro-Moscow separatists in eastern Ukraine and government forces. Last week’s ceasefire was reached after the rebels abandoned a previous truce to launch their advance, arguing that previous battle lines had left their civilians vulnerable to government shelling. Kiev says the rebels are reinforcing near Mariupol for a possible assault on the port, the biggest city in the two rebellious provinces still in government hands. Defense analyst Dmytro Tymchuk, who has close ties to the military, said rebels had brought 350 fighters and 20 armored vehicles including six tanks to the area.

Ebola Fears Spread As Details of First U.S. Case Emerge, Hong Kong Leaders Refuse Demands, Islamic State Tries to Expand its Territory as Turkey Considers its Role and the Reality of Climate Change

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In Tuesday afternoon press conference, the Federal authorities and the Center for Disease Control confirmed the first diagnosed case of Ebola in the United States and the local station WFAA was the first to report the patent testing positive in Dallas, according to Ryan Gorman, First US case of deadly Ebola virus confirmed in Dallas. The male patient recently traveled to Liberia, leaving the country on September 19 and arriving in the U.S. the following day, according to the CDC’s Dr. Thomas Frieden. The person exhibited no symptoms until about five days later. He sought care on the 26th, was admitted to a hospital on the 28th and tested positive on the 30th, Frieden explained, adding the man is “critically ill.” The patient has been placed into isolation in Texas and will be treated in the state. A CDC team already on the ground in Texas will work to identify all individuals that have come into contact with the infected individual and monitor those people for the next 21 days, Frieden added. Frieden declined to say if the individual is an American citizen, but did disclose he is in the country to “visit family.” Dallas County Health and Human Services director Zachary Thompson told WFAA that the city is more than able to contain and treat the isolated patient. Health official have reported that more than 3,000 people have died during the recent outbreak in West Africa and three Americans were transported to Atlanta for treatment after contracting Ebola, but this is the first case outside that region. Frieden said, “Ebola is a scary disease. We’re really hoping for the recovery of this individual. We’re [also] stopping it in it’s tracks in the United States.” The Associated Press reports, Ebola case stokes concerns for Liberians in Texas, Stanley Gaye, president of the Liberian Community Association of Dallas-Fort Worth, said the 10,000-strong Liberian population in North Texas is skeptical of the CDC’s assurances because Ebola has ravaged their country. Gaye said at a community meeting Tuesday evening, “We’ve been telling people to try to stay away from social gatherings. We need to know who it is so that they (family members) can all go get tested. If they are aware, they should let us know.” Vice president Roseline Sayon said, “We don’t want to get a panic going.We embrace those people who are coming forward. Don’t let the stigma keep you from getting tested.” Blood tests by Texas health officials and the CDC separately confirmed his Ebola diagnosis Tuesday. State health officials described the patient as seriously ill. Goodman said he was able to communicate and was hungry. Passengers leaving Liberia pass through rigorous screening, but those checks are no guarantee that an infected person not showing symptoms will be stopped from boarding, according to Binyah Kesselly, chairman of the Liberia Airport Authority’s board of directors. Ebola is believed to have sickened more than 6,500 people in West Africa, and more than 3,000 deaths have been linked to the disease, according to the World Health Organization. But even those tolls are probably underestimates, partially because there are not enough labs to test people for Ebola. Two mobile Ebola labs staffed by American naval researchers arrived this weekend and will be operational this week, according to the U.S. Embassy in Monrovia. The labs will reduce the amount of time it takes to learn if a patient has Ebola from several days to a few hours. The U.S. military also delivered equipment to build a 25-bed clinic that will be staffed by American health workers and will treat doctors and nurses who have become infected. The U.S. is planning to build 17 other clinics in Liberia and will help train more health workers to staff them.

While the man is now receiving treatment for Ebola, new details have emerged about the days before the he was admitted to the hospital. the Associated Press reports, Dallas ER sent Ebola-infected patient home, a Dallas emergency room sent home the man with Ebola last week knowing he had told a nurse he had been to West Africa specifically Liberia and officials at the hospital are considering if they would of acted differently if they entire staff knew. The decision by Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital to release the patient, who had recently arrived from Liberia, could have put others at risk of exposure to Ebola before the man went back to the ER a couple of days later when his condition worsened. A nine-member team of federal health officials was tracking anyone who had close contact with the man after he fell ill on Sept. 24. The group of 12 to 18 people included three members of the ambulance crew that took him to the hospital, as well as a handful of schoolchildren. They will be checked every day for 21 days, the disease’s incubation period. “That’s how we’re going to break the chain of transmission, and that’s where our focus has to be,” Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told The Associated Press Wednesday. The patient explained to a nurse last Thursday that he was visiting the U.S. from Africa, but that information was not widely shared, said Dr. Mark Lester, who works for the hospital’s parent company. “Regretfully, that information was not fully communicated” throughout the medical team, Lester said. Instead, the man was diagnosed with a low-risk infection and sent home. He was prescribed antibiotics, according to his sister, Mai Wureh, who identified her brother, Thomas Eric Duncan, as the infected man in an interview with The Associated Press. Duncan has been kept in isolation at the hospital since Sunday. He was listed in serious but stable condition. But the diagnosis, and the hospital’s slip-up, highlighted the wider threat of Ebola, even far from Africa. Since the man had no symptoms on the plane, the CDC stressed there is no risk to his fellow passengers. Reuters reports, Dallas Ebola patient vomited outside apartment on way to hospital, two days after he was sent home from the hospital, the man was seen vomiting on the ground outside his apartment complex as he was taken into an ambulance. The New York Times said that Duncan, in his mid-40s, helped transport a pregnant woman suffering from Ebola to a hospital in Liberia, where she was turned away for lack of space. Duncan helped bring the woman back to her family’s home and carried her into the house, where she later died, the newspaper reported. Four days later Duncan left for the United States, the Times said, citing the woman’s parents and neighbors. Airline and hotel company shares dropped sharply on U.S. markets on Wednesday over concerns that Ebola’s spread outside Africa might curtail travel. Drugmakers with experimental Ebola treatments in the pipeline saw their shares rise. A Liberian official said the man traveled through Brussels to the United States. United Airlines said in a statement that the man took one of its flights from Brussels to Washington Dulles Airport, where he changed planes to travel to Dallas-Fort Worth. As of Thursday morning, Ryan Gorman reports, Texas officials now looking at 100 people possibly infected with deadly Ebola virus, Texas State Health Department spokesperson Carrie Williams said in a statement: “We are working from a list of about 100 potential or possible contacts. The number will drop as we focus in on those whose contact may represent a potential risk of infection.” Officials previously said they were looking at about 80 people while Duncan was being cared for in a Dallas hospital. Authorities explained they are casting a wide net in order to make sure no one goes untreated and any potential outbreak can be immediately contained. In the article, US Ebola patient’s family under quarantine as he faces criminal charges in Liberia, Gorman reports that Duncan’s family has been placed under quarantine and Thomas Duncan will face criminal charges in Liberia. Officials hand-delivered the order to Thomas Duncan’s relatives Wednesday night after they reportedly violated an official request to not leave home, WFAA reported. The Liberian citizen reportedly lied on his health form to gain entry to the U.S. Duncan’s family is now under a strict quarantine until October 19. They are legally prohibited from leaving their Dallas home for any reason. Duncan lying on his health form has prompted Liberian officials to announce they will file criminal charges against him for carrying the deadly virus through Europe and two U.S. cities, the Associated Press reported.

While the U.S. now may be dealing with the deadly virus, the outbreak in Western African countries continues to grow at an alarming rate and the local health facilities are ill-equipped to deal. Eline Gordts reports, 5 People Are Infected With Ebola Every Hour In Sierra Leone, according to new data released Wednesday by the International Charity Save the Children, five people in Sierra Leone are infected with Ebola every hour. According to Save the Children, an estimated 765 new cases of Ebola were reported in Sierra Leone just last week, while the country currently only has 327 beds for patients available. Without drastic efforts to curtail the spread of the disease, 10 people will be infected every hour in the country before the end of October, Save the Children said. In a press release about the numbers, Rob MacGillivray, the organization’s director in Sierra Leone, said: “We are facing the frightening prospect of an epidemic which is spreading like wildfire across Sierra Leone, with the number of new cases doubling every three weeks.” The spread of Ebola remains persistent in Sierra Leone, according to the WHO, and there’s strong evidence that the disease is reaching new districts. According to estimates by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, the number of Ebola cases in Liberia and Sierra Leone could rise to 1.4 million by January if the disease is not effectively fought. Only 30 percent of patients survive Ebola.

Meanwhile, as protest rage in Hong Kong, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying has refused to step down Thursday and offered to talk to defuse a week of massive demonstrations that are the biggest challenge to Beijing’s authority since China took over from Britain in 1997, according to the Associated Press, Hong Kong leader offers talks with protesters. Student leaders of the protest did not respond to Leung’s announcement, however, Occupy Central said in a statement: “[Occupy Central] hopes the talks can provide a turning point in the current political stalemate. However, we reiterate our view that Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying is the one responsible for the stalemate, and that he must step down.” The protesters want Beijing to reverse its decision that all candidates in an inaugural 2017 election for chief executive must be approved by a committee of mostly pro-Beijing elites. They say China is reneging on its promise that the city’s top leader will be chosen through “universal suffrage.” Earlier in the day, police brought in supplies of tear gas and other riot gear, and the protesters prepared face masks and goggles as tensions rose in the standoff outside the imposing government compound near the waterfront. Police warned of serious consequences if the protesters tried to surround or occupy government buildings, as they had threatened to do if Leung didn’t resign by the end of Thursday. Leung said shortly before midnight that the authorities would continue to tolerate the protests as long as participants did not charge police lines, but urged them to stop their occupation of much of the downtown area. He said, “I urge students not to charge into or occupy government buildings. … It’s not about my personal inconvenience. These few days the protesters’ occupation of key areas of the city has already seriously affected Hong Kong’s economy, people’s daily lives and government functioning.” Joanna Chiu reports, Hong Kong leader rejects protestors’ demands, Hong Kong’s free press and social media has allowed protestors a voice and exposure that may prevent China from cracking down in the same way it does on restive minorities and dissidents living in the mainland, where it is harshly punished. With dozens of bus routes canceled and subway entrances closed, Hong Kong’s police and fire department renew calls for protestors to clear the streets. Many of the protesters were born after an agreement with Britain in 1984 that pledged to give China control of the city of 7 million, and have grown up in an era of affluence and stability, with no experience of past political turmoil in mainland China. Their calls for a great say in their futures have widespread support among many in Hong Kong disillusioned by a widening gap between the city’s ultra-wealthy tycoons and the rest of the population. Didi Tang reports, No images of Hong Kong protests in China’s media, China’s government has cut off news about Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests to the rest of the country, a clampdown so thorough that no image of the rallies has appeared in state-controlled media, and at least one man has been detained for reposting accounts of the events. By contrast, media in semiautonomous Hong Kong have been broadcasting nonstop about the crowds, showing unarmed students fending off tear gas and pepper spray with umbrellas as they call for more representative democracy in the former British colony. Censorship of microblogs – including phrases such as “tear gas” – has kept online discussion muted. The image-sharing Instagram service was shut down in China over the weekend. Activist Wang Long in the southern city of Shenzhen, who reposted news about the protests on the instant messaging service WeChat, was detained Monday by police on suspicion of causing trouble, his lawyer friend Fan Biaowen said.

While the government of China unites against a Hong Kong democracy and face off against pro-democracy protestors, the U.S. led coalition to fight ISIS continues to struggle to gain ground against the militant group as Turkey decides whether to join the fight publicly or take a background role. CNN reports, Airstrikes pound ISIS targets; bomb blasts kill 30 schoolchildren in Syria, a day after Britain’s military launched its first campaign, Turkish soldiers and tanks along the border with Syria on Tuesday gear up for a possible fight. Meanwhile, Turkey’s government put a motion before parliament asking for the authorization to take military action against ISIS. Lawmakers are expected to debate the measure in a special session Thursday before voting, Anadolu, Turkey’s semiofficial new agency, reports. Tony Abbot told Parliament in Canberra that Australian aircraft started flying over Iraq in support of allied operations Wednesday. However, the government is awaiting an invitation from Iraq before a final decision to commit Australian forces to airstrikes. Retired U.S. Marine general coordinating the U.S. led coalition against ISIS, John R. Allen told CNN, “It’s actually an important moment where so many countries from so many different backgrounds share that view (that ISIS poses a threat to the region), that this is an opportunity to create partnership across those lines of effort that would achieve real effect.” According to a military think tank, Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, the airstrikes have cost $1 billion. The U.S. military said Tuesday that it was the busiest day for airstrikes against ISIS since the military campaign began, with 28 total, including the two UK strikes. More strikes were carried out Wednesday by the United States and a partner nation, the U.S. military said, including around the predominantly Kurdish town of Kobani in Syria, known in Arabic as Ayn al Arab. Other strikes hit ISIS targets in Iraq northwest of Mosul, near the Haditha Dam and northwest of Baghdad. Tuesday, British planes helped Kurdish troops who were fighting ISIS in northwestern Iraq, dropping a bomb on an ISIS heavy weapon position and shooting a missile at an armed pickup truck, the UK’s Defense Ministry said. Britain joins the United States and France as countries that have hit ISIS in Iraq with airstrikes, while Belgium and Denmark have also said they also will provide planes. Of those nations, only the United States along with some Arab countries have struck ISIS positions in neighboring Syria. In Syria, where a 3½ year old civil war rages on between government forces and rebel groups including ISIS, twin blasts struck Wednesday near a school in the nation’s third-largest city, Homs. The death toll has climbed to 39, with at least 30 children between the ages of 6 and 9 killed, according to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. The toll was confirmed by the London-based monitoring group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which collects information about civilian casualties in the country. Turkey’s debate over whether to step into the fray comes as the flood of refugees from Syria has escalated, with 150,000 people fleeing to Turkey in recent days. Meanwhile, ISIS fighters armed with tanks and heavy weapons advance on Kobani in northern Syria, destroying villages in their path. If ISIS takes Kobani, it will control a complete swath of land from its self-declared capital of Raqqa to the Turkish border, more than 60 miles away. On Wednesday, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said, according to the Associate Press report, Turkey considers Iraq, Syria incursions: “In the struggle against terrorism, we are open and ready for every kind of cooperation. However, Turkey is not a country that will allow itself to be used for temporary solutions. An effective struggle against ISIL or other terror organizations will be our priority. The immediate removal of the administration in Damascus, Syria’s territorial unity and the installation of an administration which embraces all will continue to be our priority.” The motion cites the continued threat to Turkey from Kurdish rebels who are fighting for autonomy from bases in northern Iraq; the threat from the Syrian regime; as well as the newly emerged threat from the Islamic State militants and other groups in Syria and Iraq. It also cites a potential threat to a mausoleum in Syria that is considered Turkish territory. The tiny plot of land that is a memorial to Suleyman Shah, the grandfather of the founder of the Ottoman Empire, is guarded by Turkish troops. The government enjoys a majority in parliament and the motion was expected to pass despite opposition from two parties.

As the human tragedy of war unfolds in the Middle East, several credible and widely known organizations this week have released reports on the human impact on climate change that has caused wildlife populations to plummet and bodies of water to recede or disappear and the record increase of Antarctic sea ice. John Heilprin reports, Humans To Blame For Major Decline In Wildlife Populations, WWF Report Finds, that a study Tuesday from the Swiss based WWF reports that 3,000 species of wildlife around the world have see their numbers plummet due to human threats to nature with a 52 percent decline in wildlife populations between 1970 and 2010. It says improved methods of measuring populations of fish, birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles explain the huge difference from the 28-percent decline between 1970 and 2008 that the group reported in 2012. Most of the new losses were found in tropical regions, particularly Latin America. WWF describes the study it has carried out every two years since 1998 as a barometer of the state of the planet. The latest “Living Planet” study analyzed data from about 10,000 populations of 3,038 vertebrate species from a database maintained by the Zoological Society of London. It is meant to provide a representative sampling of the overall wildlife population in the world, said WWF’s Richard McLellan, editor-in-chief of the study. It reflects populations since 1970, the first year the London-based society had comprehensive data. Each study is based on data from at least four years earlier. In the new WWF study, hunting and fishing along with continued losses and deterioration of natural habitats are identified as the chief threats to wildlife populations around the world. Other primary factors are global warming, invasive species, pollution and disease. Ken Norris, science director at the London society, said, “This damage is not inevitable but a consequence of the way we choose to live. There is still hope. Protecting nature needs focused conservation action, political will and support from industry.” Ryan Gorman reports, The world’s fourth-largest lake is almost completely dry, the vast Aral Sea has all but disappeared as seen in new satellite photos released by NASA. Officials in the Soviet Union began diverting water from the Aral Sea in the 1960s to irrigate desert land in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan, according to the space agency. This effort has virtually drained it dry. The port cities Aralsk, Kazakhstan, and Moynaq, Uzbekistan, dependent on the lake’s 22 varieties of fish, began to crumble, officials claim. Less water led to higher concentrations of salt and other pollutants, it eventually became a public health hazard. Contaminated soil then blew off the dry lake bed onto neighboring farms and contaminated them, officials said. Less water also led to colder winters since the water’s moderating effect on the local climate was all but diminished. Kate Sheppard reports, Cutting Greenhouse Gas Emissions Could Save 3,500 Lives Per Year: Report, a study released Tuesday says that reducing greenhouse gas emissions from power plants in order to curb global warming will save up to 3,500 American lives or nine lives per day and prevent 1,000 hospitalizations. The study, by researchers at Harvard, Syracuse and Boston universities, finds that the “co-benefits” of cutting carbon include reductions in sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, particulate matter, and mercury, which have been linked to respiratory illness, heart attacks and early deaths. The study looked at three scenarios for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. One would only require changes at power plants. The second would set a state-based standard and allow reductions to come from throughout the electricity sector. The third would require power plants to make changes up to a certain cost. The researchers said the second scenario yielded the most co-benefits, reducing greenhouse gas emissions 35 percent from 2005 levels, while cutting sulfur dioxide and mercury emissions 27 percent, and nitrogen oxide emissions 22 percent. That scenario also was the most similar to the draft standard for reducing power plant emission that the Environmental Protection Agency released in June, which calls for a 30 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. The EPA’s own estimates of the benefits of its draft rules projected that they would prevent 2,700 to 6,600 premature deaths. The study found health benefits across the lower 48 states. Benefits were highest in places where more people are currently exposed to pollutants, and in the places with the worst air quality. Pennsylvania, Ohio, Texas, Illinois, Michigan, New York, North Carolina, Georgia, Missouri, Virginia, Tennessee and Indiana would see the most avoided deaths, the researchers concluded. Climate Central reports, Antarctic Sea Ice Just Hit A New Maximum, But That Doesn’t Mean The Continent’s Not Warming, a boom in Antarctic sea ice will surpassed 7.7 million square miles for the first time ever and will set a new record and nearly every day has set a record for the day in the satellite record for 2014, according to Ted Scambos, a senior scientist with the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado. The boom in ice around the southernmost continent in the past few years is in contract to the decades long decline of sea ice in the Arctic Ocean where the Arctic sea ice hit its sixth lowest extent at the end of this summer with the ice’s edge coming within 5 degrees latitude of the North Pole. That Arctic ice melt is robustly connected to the overall warming of the planet. The loss of reflective, white ice also amplifies the warming around the North Pole; as more dark, open ocean is exposed to incoming sunlight, the water absorbs those rays, heats even more and melts more ice. The growth of Antarctic sea ice may also, paradoxically, be connected to global warming, though the exact combination of causes is still a major area of study. And just what the causes turn out to be will affect how long the Antarctic growth will go on for. The Associated Press reports, 35,000 Walrus Come Ashore In Northwest Alaska, an estimated 35,000 walrus were photographed Saturday about 5 miles north of Point Lay, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Due to the fact these Pacific walrus cannot find sea ice to rest on in the Arctic waters, many have come ashore in record numbers to the beaches of northwest Alaska. The enormous gathering was spotted during NOAA’s annual arctic marine mammal aerial survey, spokeswoman Julie Speegle said by email. The survey is conducted with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, the agency that oversees offshore lease sales. Andrea Medeiros, spokeswoman for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said walrus were first spotted Sept. 13 and have been moving on and off shore. Observers last week saw about 50 carcasses on the beach from animals that may have been killed in a stampede, and the agency was assembly a necropsy team to determine their cause of death. Pacific walrus spend their winters in the Bering Sea as females give birth on sea ice and use the ice to dive for food on the shallow shelf. When the temperatures warm in summer and the edge of the sea ice receded north, females and their young ride the edge of the ice into the Chukchi Sea, north of the Bering Sea. Unfortunately, in recent years, sea ice has receded beyond the shallow continental shelf and into the Arctic Ocean water with depths that exceed 2 miles preventing walrus from diving to the bottom. The World Wildlife Fund said walrus have also been gathering in large groups on the Russian side of the Chukchi Sea. Margaret Williams, managing director of the group’s Arctic program, said via phone from Washington, D.C.. “It’s another remarkable sign of the dramatic environmental conditions changing as the result of sea ice loss. The walruses are telling us what the polar bears have told us and what many indigenous people have told us in the high Arctic, and that is that the Arctic environment is changing extremely rapidly and it is time for the rest of the world to take notice and also to take action to address the root causes of climate change.”

Strikes on ISIS Continue As New Recruits Arrive, Democracy Protests in Hong Kong Take a Violent Turn and Police Mistrust Corroding America

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Through the weekend, U.S. and British airstrikes continues to bombard ISIS installations in Syria as new recruits arrived to fight with ISIS. On Saturday, Bassem Mroue reports, US-led planes strike fighters attacking Syria town, that for the first time U.S. led coalition warplanes struck the Islamic State fighters in Syria attacking a town near the Turkish border and in the country’s east, according to activists and a Kurdish official. The Islamic State’s attack on the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani that caused 100,000 refugees to flee to Turkey in recent days has caused Kurdish fighters from Iraq and Turkey to join the fight to defend the town. Nawaf Khalil, a spokesman for Syria’s Kurdish Democratic Union Party, or PYD, said the strikes targeted Islamic State positions near Kobani, also known as Ayn Arab, destroying two tanks resulting in jihadi fighters later shelling the town and wounding a number of civilians. The united States was joined by five Arab allies to launch an aerial campaign against Islamic State fighters in Syria early Tuesday to try and roll back the extremist group, which has created a proto-state spanning the Syria-Iraq border. During their campaigns for control the militants have massacred captured Syrian and Iraqi troops, terrorized minorities in both countries and beheaded two American journalists and a British aid worker. Syria’s Foreign Minister Waid al-Moallem told the Lebanon based Al-Mayadeen TV that the airstrikes alone “will not be able to wipe out” the Islamic State group and on Saturday said the U.S. should work with Damascus to win the war. HOwever, the U.S. has ruled out any coordination with President Bashar Assad’s government who is at war with the Islamic State group as well as Western-backed rebels. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the coalition’s strikes near Kobani came amid heavy fighting between the Islamic State group and members of the Kurdish force known as the People’s Protection Units, or YPK. The Observatory reported Friday that 13 civilians have been killed by the strikes since they began. The Observatory said other coalition airstrikes targeted Islamic State compounds in the central province of Homs and the northern regions of Raqqa and Aleppo. The group said 31 explosions were heard in the city of Raqqa, the group’s de facto capital, and its suburbs. The Local Coordination Committees, another activist group, said the strikes in the east hit the province of Deir el-Zour as well as Raqqa. The LCC also said the coalition targeted grain silos west of Deir el-Zour city. Max Blumenfeld, a spokesman for U.S. Central Command, said the U.S. airstrikes are aimed at specific Islamic State targets such as command and control centers, transportation and logistics, and oil refineries, “but not food that could have an impact upon the civilian population.” In recent days coalition warplanes had struck oil-producing facilities in eastern Syria aiming to cut off the group’s main revenue stream which generate $2 million a day in black market oil sales. The coalition striking Syria includes Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain and Jordan, and the strikes are an extension of the U.S. campaign in neighboring Iraq launched in August. Meanwhile in Washington, a week after the U.S. led airstrikes in Syria began, in a televised interview Sunday, Obama echoed James Clapper’s (head of U.S. intelligence) sentiments regarding ISIS by saying the government “underestimated what had been taking place in Syria” during its civil war, allowing Syria to become “ground zero for jihadists around the world,” according to a CNN report, Obama admits ISIS threat was misjudged as U.S. splits emerge. Speaking to CBS’ “60 Minutes,” Obama said, “Over the past couple of years, during the chaos of the Syrian civil war, where essentially you have huge swaths of the country that are completely ungoverned, they were able to reconstitute themselves and take advantage of that chaos.” Additionally, Obama said the U.S. later overrated Iraq’s security forces, which were quickly overrun by ISIS when it took over the northern city of Mosul this summer. Obama told “60 minutes,” “This is America leading the international community to assist a country with whom we have a security partnership with, to make sure that they are able to take care of their business. If we do our job right and the Iraqis fight, then over time our role can slow down and taper off.” On Friday, Danica Kirka reported, Britain joins fight against Islamic State group, Britain, Belgium and Denmark joined the fight by committing warplanes to the struggle against the Islamic State group in Iraq. British Prime Minister David Cameron made a passionate plea for action in drastic terms: “This is about psychopathic terrorists that are trying to kill us and we do have to realize that, whether we like it or not, they have already declared war on us. There isn’t a `walk on by’ option. There isn’t an option of just hoping this will go away.” British lawmakers voted 524-43 for action after being urgently recalled from a recess. Belgian also overwhelmingly approved, voting 114-2 to take part, despite widespread concerns that more terrorism may follow in their homeland as a result. Denmark’s Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt said her government would send four operational planes and three reserve jets along with 250 pilots and support staff for 12 months. Lawmakers in Denmark must also approve, but that is considered a formality. The British resolution does not include Syria, but lawmakers feel this is the next logical step. No European nation has yet agreed to join the U.S. and some Arab states in strikes in Syria. Unfortunately, 200 fighters have joined ISIS in Syria’s northern Aleppo province since U.S. President Barack Obama said the United States would strike the group in Syria, according to a monitoring group on Friday. At least 162 have joined the radical al-Qaida offshoot in northeast and eastern Aleppo in the week following Obama’s speech on Sept. 10, according to the British based Syrian Observatory for Human rights. Another 73 men have joined on Sept. 23 and 24 in the northeast Aleppo countryside since the strikes started, bringing the total to 235, the Observatory reports. Additionally, the new men come from al Qaida’s Syrian wing, the Nusra Front, were mostly Syrian and included 15 nationalities. On Monday, activists reported that U.S. led warplanes bombed Islamic State positions overnight across four provinces in northern and eastern Syria, hitting a gran silo and the country’s largest gas plant, the Associated Press reported,
US-led airstrikes hit 4 Syrian provinces.

While last week ISIS became a greater concern to country’s around the world, a long standing debate also took center stage as people marched and rallied for change in Hong Kong. Kevin Chan reports, Pro-Democracy protests expand in Hong Kong, pro-democracy protestors expanded their rally throughout Hong Kong Monday defying calls to disperse in a major push back against Beijing’s decision to limit democratic reforms in the Asian financial hub. Police officers tried to negotiate with protestors camped out on a busy highway near the Hong Kong government headquarters that was the scene of tear gas fueled clashes that erupted the previous night. An officer with a bullhorn tried to clear the way for commuters, but was met with a protestor who responded by saying that they want Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying to demand a genuine choice for the territory’s voters. China has called the protest illegal and endorsed the Hong Kong’s government’s crackdown, while Beijing has taken a hard line against threat’s to the Communist Party’s monopoly on power. The mass protests are the strongest challenge yet to Beijing’s decision last month to reject open nominations for candidates under proposed guidelines for the first-ever elections for Hong Kong’s leader, promised for 2017. Instead, candidates must continue to be hand-picked by Beijing – a move that many residents viewed as reneging on promises to allow greater democracy in the semi-autonomous territory. Lueng said, “I hope the public will keep calm. Don’t be misled by the rumors. Police will strive to maintain social order, including ensuring smooth traffic and ensuring the public safety. When they carry out their duties, they will use their maximum discretion.” The protest has been spearheaded largely but student-age activists but has gathered momentum among a broad range of people from high school students to the elderly. Protestors are also occupying streets in other parts of Hong Kong Island such as the upscale shopping area of Causeway Bay and across the harbor in densely populated Mong Kok on the Kowloon peninsula. In addition, the city’s transport department said roads in the area are closed and more than 200 bus routes have been canceled or diverted int he city dependent on public transportation as well as Subway exits that have been closed or blocked near the protest area. Authorities said some schools in areas near the main protest site would be closed. To ward off tear gas, demonstrators improvised with homemade defenses such as plastic wrap, which they used to cover their face and arms, as well as umbrellas, goggles and surgical masks. The protests began with a class boycott last week by students urging Beijing to grant genuine democratic reforms to this former British colony. Beijing’s insistence on using a committee to screen candidates on the basis of their patriotism to China – similar to the one that currently hand-picks Hong Kong’s leaders – has stoked fears among pro-democracy groups that Hong Kong will never get genuine democracy. Students and activists had been camped out since late Friday on streets outside the government complex. Sunday’s clashes arose when police sought to block thousands of people from entering the protest zone. Protesters spilled onto a busy highway, bringing traffic to a standstill. Although students started the rally, leaders of the broader Occupy Central civil disobedience movement joined them early Sunday, saying they wanted to kick-start a long-threatened mass sit-in demanding Hong Kong’s top leader be elected without Beijing’s interference. Occupy Central issued a statement Monday calling on Leung to resign and saying his “non-response to the people’s demands has driven Hong Kong into a crisis of disorder.” The statement added that the protest was now “a spontaneous movement” of all Hong Kong people. Police said they had arrested 78 people. They also took away several pro-democracy legislators who were among the demonstrators, but later released them. According to the Hong Kong Information Services Department on Monday, at least 41 people have been injured or taken to the hospital along with six police officers. The Associate Press reports, Hong Kong leader says Beijing won’t back down, that a brief statement from the Occupy Central civil disobedience movement set a Wednesday deadline for a response from the government to meet their demands for reforms after spending another night blocking the streets of Hong Kong. The requirements for ending the protest is for the city’s unpopular chief executive, Leung Chun-ying, to meet their demands for genuine democracy and for him to step down as Hong Kong’s leader. Even larger crowds are expected to flood the streets Wednesday, China’s National Day holiday. The government said it was canceling a fireworks display to mark the day. By Tuesday morning, the crowd, mostly students, continued to occupy a six-lane highway next to the local government headquarters. The encampment was also edging closer to the heart of the city’s financial district. Police said they used 87 rounds of tear gas Sunday in what they called a necessary but restrained response to protesters pushing through cordons and barricades. Officials announced that schools in some districts of Hong Kong would remain closed Tuesday because of safety concerns. The protests have been dubbed the “Umbrella Revolution” by some, because the crowds have used umbrellas to not only block the sun, but also to stop the police from hitting them with pepper spray. Political slogans calling for freedom have also been written on the umbrellas.

Meanwhile, in the United States, protests and rallies continue to surround Ferguson where a black unarmed teenager was shot by a white police officer, causing racial tensions to simmer and boil over repeatedly this past month. On Friday, the Department of Justice and officials said they personally observed Ferguson police officers not wearing name plates which is in direct conflict with Ferguson Police Department policy, but on duty officers in Ferguson were wearing wristband in support of the cop who shot and killed an unarmed teen last month, according to what the DOJ told police in St. Louis County and reported by AOL, DOJ Gets Ferguson, St. Louis County Cops To Ban ‘I Am Darren Wilson’ Wristbands. A photo posted on social media during demonstrations in Ferguson on Tuesday night appears to show an officer working crowd control wearing a wristband that reads “I am Darren Wilson.” The slogan and campaigns associated with it are in support of the Ferguson police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown and whom protestors want arrested. A grand jury currently is weighing the evidence against Wilson, and the FBI has launched a separate civil rights investigation into the case. Missouri State Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson said the wristbands were “not a statement of law enforcement” and that he would have conversations with law enforcement agencies about officers wearing the wristbands. Christy Lopez, deputy chief of the special litigation section of DOJ’s Civil Rights Division, sent a letter to Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson on Friday indicating that Jackson had agreed to prohibit Ferguson officers from wearing “I am Darren Wilson” bracelets while in uniform and on duty. The letter said Jackson had said he would make sure the other municipal agencies working in Ferguson would prohibit their officers from wearing the bracelets as well. Lopez said St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar and Missouri Highway Patrol Ron Replogle had indicated to Justice Department officials they also would ban the bracelets. According to letter Lopez wrote: “These bracelets reinforce the very ‘us versus them’ mentality that many residents of Ferguson believe exists.” In a separate letter that DOJ sent to Jackson this week that was released on Friday, Civil Rights Division officials asked him to make sure his officers were wearing name tags while on duty. The letter to Jackson states: “Officers wearing name plates while in uniform is a basic component of transparency and accountability. It is a near-universal requirement of sound policing practices and required under some state laws. Allowing officers to remain anonymous when they interact with the public contributes to mistrust and undermines accountability. The failure to wear name plates conveys a message to community members that, through anonymity, officers may seek to act with impunity.” Protests have heated up in Ferguson this week, six weeks after Brown was killed after Wilson stopped him and a friend because they were walking in the middle of the street. Jackson apologized to the Brown family and protestors this week in a video released by a public relations firm working for the city. Another component of the Justice Department, the Community Relations Service, also held meetings with Ferguson residents this week in an attempt to sooth tensions in the area. The Associated Press reports, AP Interview: Browns unmoved by chief’s apology, the parents of Michael Brown want the Ferguson, Missouri, police officer who shot their unarmed 18 year old son arrested and charged with murder and the police chief fired. In a wide-ranging interview, Brown’s mother, Lesley McSpadden said yes when asked if Chief Tom Jackson should be fired, and his father, Michael Brown Sr., said he wanted the officer who shot his son to be in handcuffs for the Aug. 9 death. Brown said, “An apology would be when Darren Wilson has handcuffs, processed and charged with murder.” McSpadden added, “There’s going to continue to be unrest until they do what should be done.” Brown’s parents are in the nation’s capital to meet with lawmakers and lobby Congress to pass a law requiring police officers to wear cameras during their interactions with the public. They also called on the Justice Department to take over the investigation into whether there should be criminal charges against the officer. The parents were invited to the annual awards dinner of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, where President Barack Obama spoke of the mistrust between local residents and law enforcement in many communities following these episodes like Brown’s death. He said, “Too many young men of color feel targeted by law enforcement – guilty of walking while black, driving while black, judged by stereotypes that fuel fear and resentment and hopelessness.” The parents were also angry over Ferguson police wearing bracelets in support of Wilson. Obama at the Saturday dinner said: “It makes folks who are victimized by crime and need strong policing reluctant to go to the police because they may not trust them. And the worst part of it is it scars the hearts of our children. That is not the society we want. It’s not the society that our children deserve. Too many young men of color feel targeted by law enforcement – guilty of walking while black or driving while black, judged by stereotypes that fuel fear and resentment and hopelessness. Back in Ferguson, Jack Gillum reports, Ferguson demands high fees to turn over city files, Bureaucrats responding to requests under the state’s Sunshine Act to turn over government files about the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown, are charging nearly 10 times the cost of some of their own employees’ salaries before they will agree to release any records. The move discourages journalists and civil rights groups from investigating the shooting and its aftermath. While the city under Missouri law can give away copies of records for free if determined that the material was in the public’s interest to see, the city has decided to charge high fees with little explanation of the cost breakdown. Price-gouging for government files is one way that local, state and federal agencies have responded to requests for potentially embarrassing information they may not want released. Open records laws are designed to give the public access to government records at little or no cost, and have historically exposed waste, wrongdoing and corruption. According to Gillum, since the death and ensuing protest, news organizations, nonprofit groups and everyday citizens have submitted records requests to Ferguson officials, asking for police reports, records about Brown and the personnel files of Officer Darren Wilson, who shot Brown Aug. 9.

American Business and Politics: With Liberty and Justice for Some

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On Thursday, Attorney General Eric Holder, the country’s first African American AG, announced he was leaving the Department of Justice after five and half years in the role, Ryan Gorman reports, US Attorney General Eric Holder to step down. The 63 year old will remain with the Justice Department until his successor is named, but is certain about his departure , according to NPR. While the Obama administration wanted him to stay the full eight years, the final decision was Holder’s to make. According to the source who told NPR, Holder is leery about remaining much longer over fears he “could be locked in to stay for much of the rest of President Obama’s second term.” The decision was made over the Labor Day weekend by Holder and Obama. Possible successors include former White House counsel Kathryn Ruemmler and Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, according to the Wall Street Journal. Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s name has also been mentioned in reports. Holder is the 82nd AG and worked as the deputy attorney general under President Clinton in the 1990s. His troublesome tenure, the fourth longest in history, was riddled with political infighting and racial divided across the nation, culminating with the Michael Brown shooting last month in Ferguson, Missouri. The AG was dispatched directly to the St. Louis suburb to handle he inquiry into the unarmed black teen’s death at the hands of white police officer Darren Wilson. Nedra Pickler reports, Holder resigning: Attorney general backed rights, in an emotional ceremony at the White House, Obama said Holder did a superb job and credited him with driving down both the nation’s crime and incarceration rate for the first time in 40 years. Obama said, “He believes as I do that justice is not just an abstract theory. It’s a living and breathing principal. It’s about how our laws interact with our daily lives.” In a speech earlier this week, Holder described the dual personal perspective he brought to the job and how it applies to the Ferguson shooting. He said he has the utmost respect for police as a former prosecutor and the brother of an officer, but added, “As an African-American man who has been stopped and searched by police in situations where such actions were not warranted, I also carry with me an understanding of the mistrust that some citizens harbor.” Holder told the Associated Press in an interview that he’s not sure whether the Justice Department will finish its investigation into the shooting before he leaves. Holder said “I don’t want to rush them” and once out of office, he will direct attention to “issues that have animated me” during his tenure, including criminal justice and civil rights. Holder said his biggest regret was “the failure to pass any responsible and reasonable gun safety legislation after the shootings in Newtown and thought after the Connecticut shooting that the nation would embrace change that was “not radical but really reasonable” on gun ownership. As the article reports: “He was a lightning rod for conservative critics and faced a succession of controversies over, among other things, an ultimately abandoned plan to try terrorism suspects in New York City, a botched gun-running probe along the Southwest border that prompted Republican calls for his resignation, and what was seen as a failure to hold banks accountable for the financial system’s near-meltdown. Stung by criticism that the department hadn’t been aggressive enough in targeting financial misconduct, Holder in the past year and a half secured criminal guilty pleas from two foreign banks and multibillion-dollar civil settlements with American banks arising from the sale of toxic mortgage-backed securities. Even then, critics noted that no individuals were held accountable.” Jim Kuhnhenn sums up the legacy of the nation’s first black attorney general and one of President Barack Obama’s longest servicing Cabinet member in his article Holder’s legacy: counterterrorism to civil rights:

TERRORISM

“Holder declared that waterboarding was torture, ordered a review of CIA interrogations, and defended the use of drone strikes overseas. His Justice Department successfully prosecuted terrorism suspects, including Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law. He was widely criticized by Republicans and some Democrats for his plan to try professed Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other alleged co-conspirators in New York, a plan he ultimately dropped.”

CIVIL RIGHTS

“He fought against voter ID laws, urged federal prosecutors to shy away from seeking mandatory minimum prison sentences for nonviolent criminals, introduced new clemency criteria and backed proposals to give leniency to certain drug convicts. He also advanced legal protections for gay couples, declaring in 2011 that the Justice Department no longer would defend the constitutionality of a 1996 law that prohibits federal recognition of same-sex marriage.”

DEATH PENALTY

“Though not a proponent of the death penalty, Holder approved pursuing capital punishment in numerous federal cases. But in the aftermath of a botched execution earlier this year in Oklahoma, Obama asked Holder to study the protocols used by states in applying the death penalty. The Justice Department already was reviewing practices used by the Bureau of Prisons and had placed a moratorium on federal executions.”

FERGUSON

“Holder became the administration’s point man in the federal response to the police shooting of an unarmed black 18-year-old in Ferguson, Missouri. He ordered a civil rights investigation into the Ferguson Police Department. In the shooting’s aftermath, Holder also enlisted a team of criminal justice researchers to study racial bias in law enforcement.”

FAST AND FURIOUS

“Holder became the first Cabinet member to be held in contempt of Congress amid a dispute over document production in a long-running congressional investigation of a flawed law enforcement gun-smuggling probe along the Southwest border.”

MEDIA CRACKDOWN

“Under Holder’s watch, the Justice Department cracked down on news media reporting on national security matters. The department secretly subpoenaed phone records from Associated Press reporters and editors and used a search warrant to obtain some emails of a Fox News journalist as part of a separate leak investigation.”

While Obama has received several blows in recent years to his Cabinet that ended with resignations, the fight for fairness and accountability in America seems to be on an upswing regarding business practices in the public and private sector. Janet McConnaughey reports, Businesses won’t have to return BP spill payouts, a federal judge Wednesday said that the oil giant BP must stand by its agreement with companies to compensate them for losses blamed on the 2010 Gulf oil spill. BP argues that the flawed funding formula enabled nearly 800 businesses to overestimate their spill related claims. Attorney Kevin Downey argued about 150 claimants should return a total of $185 million and overpayments to the rest haven’t been calculated. U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier agreed weeks ago to change the compensation formula for any future payments, but ruled Wednesday that a deal is a deal when it comes to the money BP has already paid out. Under that deal, claimants agreed not to sue, and BP agreed that no future court action could change their payments. Company spokesman Geoff Morrell said, “BP disagrees with today’s decision and will appeal it. We asked the Court, as a matter of equity and fairness, to order the return of excessive payments.” Barbier said he would rule later on the issue of compensation for cleanup workers whose chronic medical problems weren’t diagnosed until after the deal’s cutoff date of April 16, 2012. The settlement entitled cleanup workers with chronic conditions including rashes and breathing problems to receive up to $60,700 if the problems first surfaced within days of their cleanup work. Pavel Molchanov, an energy analyst for Raymond James, said, “In 2010 and 2011, BP was willing to cut any deal necessary with anyone to reduce its legal risk. Now the company is taking a more assertive approach.” The judge’s ruling this month that BP showed gross negligence and willful misconduct added a new level of uncertainty around BP’s spill-related expenses, reducing its market value by $9 billion in a single day. BP’s total potential liabilities now include up to $18 billion in fines and penalties that could be imposed for violating federal pollution laws, and more than $27 billion BP says it has already paid to restore the coast and settle damage claims. The claims office said it has paid $4.1 billion to more than 50,700 people and businesses as of Wednesday, and it’s not done yet – the settlement fund is not capped. Meanwhile, the U.S. must pay $554 million to the Navajo Nation for mismanaging reservation resources and leaving the largest Native American tribe in the country at incredible disadvantages for decades, according to the AOL article, U.S. Will Pay $554M Settlement to Navajo Nation. The payout negotiated earlier this year is the largest payout to a tribe in U.S. history and tribal leaders say the payout is much needed, reports Ben Shelly via YouTube. Spread across Arizona, New Mexico and Utah, the Navajo Nation has more than 300,000 members. The region is rich with natural resources like oil, gas and coal, other resources like water and agriculture land are scarce, the Navajo Tourism Department state. In a video via Indian Country Today, the Navajo lawsuit from 1946 to 2012 said the U.S. didn’t negotiate the best deals from companies mining natural resources from the region and didn’t make sure the Navajos were compensated properly. A CCTV investigation in 2012 found that more than 40 percent of the nation’s members lived without running water or electricity. This is another in a long line of settlements by the Obama administration with Native Americans, who had tried in vain for generations to battle government practices and a system that dated back to the 1800s. The Washington Post reports many tribes with pending litigation wrote to President Obama in 2009 asking the administration to expedite settlements instead of going to court. On the minimum wage front, Claire Zillman reports, 101-year-old law puts minimum wage at heart of Wisconsin governor’s race, a complaint filed with thew state’s department of workplace development Wednesday, by 100 low wage workers and the group Wisconsin Jobs Now, argues that the state’s $7.25 minimum wage violates a 1913 law unique to Wisconsin that requires that the state minimum wage “shall not be less than a living wage,” which is defined as one that ensures “reasonable comfort, reasonable physical well-being, decency, and moral well-being.” The filing is an attempt to force the hand of Governor Scoot Walker on the state’s minimum wage and by law required the administration’s department of workplace development, whose secretary was appointed by Walker, must determine if there’s a basis for a minimum wage hike within 20 day. The timing of the filing comes amidst a fierce race between Walker, who opposes a minimum wage hike, and his opponent in the race for governor, Democrat Mary Burke. A Marquette Law School poll from late August showed Walker leading narrowly by three points. In a statement to Fortune, Walker’s office said the workplace development department is reviewing the complaint: “Governor Walker wants jobs in Wisconsin that pay two or three times the minimum wage. He is focused on finding ways to help employers create jobs that pay far more than the minimum wage or any other proposed minimum.” While the “living wage” law is unique to Wisconsin, there are four other states—California, Connecticut, New Jersey, and Massachusetts—that give the governor the power to increase the minimum wage, according to NELP. On Thursday, Tom Huddleston Jr. reported, Dow Jones plunges more than 260 points amid massive market sell-off, all 30 Dow companies lost value making it one of the worst trading days this year amid investor concern about global instability and the possibility of higher interest rates. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 264 points, or 1.5%, to close below the 17,000-point mark at 16,945.80. All 30 companies on the blue-chip index saw their shares drop. JPMorgan Chase JPM and UnitedHealth Group UNH saw the biggest declines among Dow Jones companies, dropping 2.4% and 2.3%, respectively. The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq fell 1.6% and 1.9%, respectively, as each index has now declined in four of the past five days of trading. The reason for the fall as Huddleston Jr. reports is due the Obama administration announcement of regulations aimed at fighting corporate tax inversions and the U.S.-led airstrikes conducted in Syria. In addition, reports of a leadership change in China’s central bank and the announcement on Thursday by Richard Fisher, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, that the U.S. Federal Reserve could start raising interest rates in spring 2015 sooner than expected has created uncertainty among investors.

While big names in the political and business arena suffered minor set back this week, the people in the trenches so to speak have been dealt an even bigger blow only adding to the already heightened racial tensions and well deserved criticism of the justice system. CNN reports, No indictment in police shooting death of Ohio man carrying air rifle, the grand jury in Ohio has decided not to indict police officers for an August shooting death of a 22 year old man carrying an air rifle at a Walmart store in Beavercreek, Ohio. On Wednesday, prosecutor Mark Piepmeier said, “The grand jury listened to all the evidence, voted on it and decided that the police officers were justified in their use of force that day.” In a statement, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said the U.S. Justice Department will review the shooting of Cincinnati resident John Crawford III: “Now that the state criminal investigation has finished, it is an appropriate time for the United States Department of Justice to look into whether any federal laws were violated during this shooting.” In a statement, Michael Wright, attorney representing the Crawford family, said: “It makes absolutely no sense that an unarmed 22-year-old man would be killed doing what any American citizen does every day: Shopping at a Walmart store. The Crawford family is extremely disappointed, disgusted and confused. They are heartbroken that justice was not done in the tragic death of their only son. The Crawford family feels they have been victimized all over again and once again request that the U.S. Department of Justice conduct an independent investigation into the tragic death of John H. Crawford, lll.” According to the report: “Crawford was shot and killed by police at a Walmart in Beavercreek on August 5 while carrying an air rifle through the store. Police responded to the scene after a witness called 911 and told dispatchers that Crawford was walking around with a rifle and ‘waving it back and forth.’ According to police, when officers arrived, Crawford did not comply with their commands to drop his weapon. He was shot twice, once in the elbow and once in the torso, Piepmeier said. Crawford died shortly after being transported to a nearby hospital. His death was ruled a homicide by gunshot wound to the torso, according to the local coroner’s office.” Prosecutors showed surveillance video from inside the store, which was made public on Wednesday. The two police officers involved, Sgt. David Darkow and Officer Sean Williams, have been on paid administrative leave after the shooting, but Darkow returned to active duty, according to Beavercreek city attorney Stephen McHugh. Williams will be assigned to administrative desk duty until a federal review of the circumstances surrounding Crawford’s death is complete, according to a statement. Wright said Walmart surveillance video and eyewitness accounts prove Williams “shot and killed Mr. Crawford while his back was turned and without adequate warning.” Beavercreek City Manager Michael Cornell and Police Chief Dennis Evers have requested that the FBI review the case to determine whether there were civil rights violations, the statement said. The nine-member grand jury, which convened on Monday, heard from 18 witnesses. An indictment on charges of murder, reckless homicide or negligent homicide would have required seven votes, Piepmeier said. Meanwhile, Ryan Gorman reports, White SC Trooper faces 20 years in prison for shooting unarmed black male, a newly released video shows a white South Carolina A State Trooper shooting an unarmed black male who was reaching for his driver’s license. Lance Corporal Sean Groubert, 31, was fired from the force and has been charged with a felony in the wrongful shooting of Levar Jones, who luckily survived the incident. Groubert pulled Jones over September 4 for a seat belt violation and shot the man without any provocation, according to The State. The former cop faces 20 years in prison if convicted. Jones was not armed and showed no aggression toward Groubert. Luckily, Jones was shot in the hip, but not seriously hurt and was released from the hospital by the time Groubert was fired last Friday. The disgraced officers was arrested Wednesday and charged with assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature with a bond set at $75,000, records showed. Unfortunately, the incident comes on the heels of other high profile cases that involved the shooting of unarmed black men by police this summer, most notably the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

As for the Ferguson, Missouri case, 47 days after the incident, Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson has apologized to the parents of the unarmed black teen shot dead by one of his cops, Ryan Gorman reports, Ferguson police chief apologizes for Michael Brown shooting — 47 days later. During a Thursday morning press conference, according to St. Louis television station KMBC, Jackson said, “I’m truly sorry for the loss of your son. I’m also sorry that it took so long to remove Michael from the street.” He added his investigators had to secure the crime scene and collect evidence, but the four hours Brown’s body laid in the street was unacceptable. Jackson ended by saying that the investigating officers meant no disrespect to the Brown family, the African American community or the people of Canfield, where Brown lived and was shot. The aftermath of the Brown shooting brought national attention as civil rights leaders and protesters took the streets to express their anger and clashed with police in the process. Regarding this matter, Jackson apologized for the inadequate protection for peaceful protesters as riots raged around them. He said, “The right of the people to peacefully assemble is what the police are here to protect. If anyone was exercising that right and is upset or angry, I feel responsible.” Things had calmed down in the weeks after Brown was laid to rest, however, flared again this week when his memorial caught fire. This lead to violence as protestors armed with guns, rocks and bottles attacked police, according to reports. Thieves vandalized and looted stores with one store was almost set on fire with gasoline. On Thursday, several protestors were arrested after Ferguson police chief Tom Jackson began marching with he crowd and a scuffle broke out near him, CNN and St. Louis television station KMOV reported. Carey Gillam reports, Police, protesters clash at rally in Ferguson, protestors have pledged continued civil unrest until Wilson is arrested and charged in Brown’s death, while a grand jury in St. Louis County is examining the case and the U.S. Justice Department. Benjamin Crump, an attorney for Brown’s parents, declined to comment on Jackson’s apology. Brown’s parents were in Washington on Thursday calling for federal legislation requiring police officers to wear body cameras to document their activities.

The Ever Growing Threat of Ebola, U.S. and Allies Bombard Syria and Iraq As ISIS Steps Up Attacks and Climate Change Takes Center Stage

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A report issued on Tuesday by the U.S. Centers from Disease Control and Prevention estimates that between 550,000 and 1.4 million people in West Africa could be infected with the Ebola virus by January 20, 2015 if nothing changes, Reuters reports, Ebola cases could rise to 1.4 million by January, CDC says. According to the report: “The top range of the estimate, 1.4 million, assumes that the number of cases officially cited so far, 5,864 according to the count kept by the World Health Organization, is significantly underreported, and that it is likely that 2.5 times as many cases, or nearly 20,000, have in fact occurred.” CDC says the projection is based on data available in August and an epidemiological model taking into account how many people each Ebola patient could infect and does not factor in the recent U.S. government Ebola relief effort that included 3,000 members of the armed forces to Ebola stricken areas. In a statement, the CDC said: “Extensive, immediate actions – such as those already started – can bring the epidemic to a tipping point to start a rapid decline in cases.”

While the world fights to contain the Ebola virus and eliminate the spread by containment, the U.S. and several of its allies try to fight a social disease that has spread throughout the world…extremism specifically the Islamic State also know as ISIS. Llazar Semini and Nicole Winfield reports, Pope denounces perversion of religion for violence, Pope France, on Sunday in Albania, denounced that extremist around the world are using religion to justify violence. The Vatican insisted no special security measures were taken even with the threat of ISIS , but Francis’ interaction with the crowd were reduced compared to his previous foreign trips. Albania’s Interior Ministry promised “maximum” protection from 2,500 police forces and beefed-up patrols at border crossings. In his opening speech, Francis told President Bujar Nishani, Albanian officials and the diplomatic corps that Albania’s inter-religious harmony was inspiring: “This is especially the case in these times in which authentic religious spirit is being perverted by extremist groups, and where religious differences are being distorted and instrumentalized. Let no one consider themselves to be the ‘armor’ of God while planning and carrying out acts of violence and oppression!” It was Francis’ first visit to a majority Muslim nation since the Islamic State crackdown on Christians in Iraq, with members of religious minorities being killed, persecuted or forced to flee their homes by militants. The Vatican has voiced mounting concern about the exodus of faithful from lands where Christian communities have existed for 2,000 years. Albania’s president, Nishani, thanked Francis: “There is no intolerance, extremism among us but reciprocal respect inherited from generation to generation,” he said. “From an atheist country, we have turned into a country of religious freedom.” In his homily, Francis paid his respect to those who sacrificed their lives for religious freedom: “Recalling the decades of atrocious suffering and harsh persecutions against Catholics, Orthodox and Muslims, we can say that Albania was a land of martyrs. Do not forget your wounds, but don’t avenge them. Go forward, flying on the hopes of a great future.”

While the optimism for a religiously free world spreads , the Islamic State continues to advocate violence in the name of religion. The Associated Press reports, Islamic State group calls for attacking civilians, Abu Mohammed al-Adnani’s 42 minute audio statement sounds like a call to arms in response to Barack Obama’s coalition formation. A spokesman for the group, al-Adnani, said their fighters are ready for battle and encourage Muslims to attack at home and abroad. In addition, he said the group welcomes the possibility of a ground war with the U.S. and called on Muslims to kill civilians of nations that joined the coalition. In a statement released Sunday, al-Adnani said: “Oh, believer, do not let this battle pass you by wherever you may be. You must strike the soldiers, patrons and troops of the tyrants. Strike their police, security and intelligence members. If you can kill a disbelieving American or European – especially the spiteful and filthy French – or an Australian, or a Canadian, or any other disbeliever from the disbelievers waging war, including the citizens of the countries that joined a coalition against the Islamic State, then rely upon Allah, and kill him in any manner or way however it may be.” Militants in Algeria seized a French citizen on Sunday and later issued a statement saying it was in response to al-Adnani’s appeal. In a video that appeared on social media, a masked member of an al-Qaida splinter organization calling itself Jund al-Khilafah, or Soldiers of the Caliphate, said he would kill his captive within 24 hours if France did not withdraw from the coalition seeking to destroy the Islamic State group. Perhaps tapping into fears among Americans of the mission broadening, al-Adnani vowed the U.S. would be “drawn and dragged” into a ground war. “It will come down to the ground and it will be led to its death, grave, and destruction. … Know that our knife is sharp and hard. It cuts off the hands and strikes the necks.” Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Bram Janssen report, Clashes Between Iraqi Soldiers And Islamic State Leave Dozens Dead And Missing, Sunday that Islamic State militants in Iraqi army uniforms and driving stolen Humvees killed 40 Iraqi soldiers at Camp Saqlawiyah near the town of Sijir and captured another 68 in western Anbar province where the United States recently broadened their airstrikes, according to Gen. Rasheed Fleih. After the attacks, the Iraqi military withdrew 700 more troops stationed in the area, he said. Iraq’s new Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said in a statement Monday that his government is committed to reinforcing military and police forces in Anbar and will increase airstrikes to target the pockets of militant fighters across the province. On Monday, the U.S. military said the airstrikes on Islamic State targets southwest of oil rich Kirkuk destroyed two military vehicles and a tank and damaged a Humvee. With the U.S. airstrikes, Iraqi and Kurdish forces have retaken several small towns and strategic Mosul Dam, but the Islamic State fighters operate from cities with large civilian populations such as Fallujah and Mosul. In northern Iraq, Helgurd Hikmet, general director of the ministry overseeing the Kurdish forces, said that France, Italy and Germany were among countries providing training in the use of the new machine guns, mortars, rockets and demining robots the Kurdish fighters have received. Last week, the French joined in the aerial campaign, and a number of European countries have committed to arming the Kurds and providing humanitarian support for more than a million people displaced by the onslaught of the Islamic State group. Meanwhile, Turkey’s Prime deputy Prime Minster Numan Kurtulmus said Turkey is ready for the worst case scenario should more refugees steam in as the number of fleeing Syrians from the Islamic state group to turkey grew in the last four days since Thursday to 130,000, according to Desmond Butler and Suzan Fraser, Syria refugee flood to Turkey hits 100,000. The Islamic State in recent days has advanced into the Kurdish regions of Syria that border Turkey, where fleeing refugees on Sunday reported atrocities that included stonings, beheadings and the torching of homes. UNHCR spokeswoman Selin Unal said most of those coming across the border are Kurdish women, children and the elderly. She urged the international community to step up its aid for Syrian refugees in Turkey. Meanwhile in Monday night raids, the U.S. and five Arab nations attacked the Islamic State group headquarters in eastern Syria by land and sea based U.S. aircraft and Tomahawk cruise missiles launched from two navy ships in the Red Sea and Persian Gulf, according to Lolita C. Baldor and Robert Burns, Joint chiefs chair: ‘No safe haven’ for militants. U.S. officials said five Arab nations either participated in the airstrikes or provided unspecified support. They were Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates. Several hours after the Pentagon announced the airstrikes against Islamic State targets, U.S. Central Command said American warplanes also launched eight airstrikes “to disrupt the imminent attack plotting against the United States and Western interests” by a network of “seasoned al-Qaida veterans” – sometimes known as the Khorasan Group – who have established a haven in Syria. Central Command said that separate bombing mission was undertaken solely by U.S. aircraft and took place west of the Syrian city of Aleppo. It said targets included training camps, an explosives and munitions production facility, a communication building and command and control facilities. Syria’s Foreign Ministry said the U.S. informed Syria’s envoy to the U.N. that “strikes will be launched against the terrorist Daesh group in Raqqa.” The statement used an Arabic name to refer to the Islamic State group. Rami Abdurrahman, who heads the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, told The Associated Press, “There is confirmed information that there are casualties among Islamic State group members.” He added that missiles also targeted the towns of Tabqa, Ein Issa and Tel Abyad, as well as the village of Kfar Derian, which is a base for the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front, a rival of the Islamic State group. Another activist, Mohammed al-Dughaim, based in the northern Syrian province of Idlib, confirmed that several airstrikes hit Kfar Derian in the early hours of Tuesday. He said there were civilians among the casualties.

While much of the world seems focused on the growing threat of pandemic Ebola and of equal threat ISIS, world leaders and activists took their concern over climate change to the street pushing for change now before its too late. Verena Dobnik and Michael Sisak report, Thousands march in NYC, around globe over climate, tens of thousands of activists walked through Manhattan Sunday to bring attention to and warn that climate change is destroying the earth with demonstrators around the world urging policy makers to take quick action. According to the report: “Organizers said more than 100,000 marched in New York, including actors Mark Ruffalo and Evangeline Lilly. They were joined in midtown Manhattan by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, former Vice President Al Gore and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. On Tuesday, more than 120 world leaders will convene for the United Nations Climate Summit aimed at galvanizing political will for a new global climate treaty by the end of 2015. De blasio said, “My sense is the energy you see on the streets, the numbers that have amassed here and in other cities around the world, show that something bigger is going on, and this U.N. summit will be one of the ones where we look back and say it was a difference maker.” Ban agreed saying, “Climate change is a defining issue of our time and there is no time to lose. There is no Plan B because we do not have planet B. We have to work and galvanize our action.” The New York march was not the only one as similar event tool place around the world to raise awareness on climate change. In London, organizers said 40,000 marchers participated, while a small gathering in Cairo featured a huge art piece representing wind and solar energy. In Rio de Janeiro, marchers at Ipanema Beach had green hearts painted on their faces. Celebrities in London including actress Emma Thompson and musician Peter Gabriel joined thousands of people crossing the capital’s center, chanting: “What do we want? Clean energy. When do we want it? Now.” In New York, people from tornado ravaged Moore, Oklahoma where 24 people were killed last year and hundreds of people affected by Superstorm Sandy participated in the march. In Australia, the largest rally was in Melbourne, where an estimated 10,000 people took to the streets with banners and placards calling on their government to do more to combat global warming. Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott was a particular target of the protesters. Abbott’s center-right coalition has removed a carbon tax and has restricted funding for climate change bodies since coming to power last year. Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary John Kerry on Monday opened a week of climate change talks in New York hopeful that the discussions will set the tone for upcoming negotiations on an international agreement, Michael Pearson reports, Kerry: New York climate summit to set agenda. Addressing business and government leaders attending Climate Week NYC that coincides with the U.N. summit Tuesday, Kerry said: “It’s about time that world leaders come to the United Nations to recognize this threat in the way that it requires and demands. And it gives me hope that this global summit may actually produce the leadership that is necessary to try to come together and move the needle, to take advantage of the small window of time — and I mean that — the small window of time that we have left in order to be able to prevent the worst impacts of climate change from already happening.” He urged participants to use their influence to steer world leaders toward committing to greater action on climate change in time for discussions on an international climate change agreement to be held in Lima, Peru, in December and in Paris in 2015. Some 125 countries will attend the session, according to the Climate Group, which is organizing Climate Week NYC. Ryan Gorman reports, Global warming likely to cause colder and snowier winters, scientists say, scientists now believe global warming is to blame for extreme cold snaps in North America during the winter months and will keep happening. The “polar vortex” that plunged Canada and the U.S. into historical cold last winter is said by researchers to have occurred because melting polar ice changes weather patterns, according to a study published earlier this month. A team of Korean and American scientist assert in a new study that the melting ices has caused the northern jet stream or upper level air flow to shift south and bring polar air with it. The article explains: “The polar ice is melting because warmer water is riding the Gulf Stream (ocean currents) from tropical regions of the Atlantic Ocean to an area north of Scandinavia. This causes masses of warm air to destabilize the normally strong polar air mass and send brutally cold air right at Canada and the U.S., according to Slate. As the atmosphere continues to warm, and ocean water temperatures rise, this effect will only become more pronounced, researchers argue. The surprising result of global warming, or climate change, will be colder, snowier winters across both countries. The Eurasian supercontinent also experiences this cooling effect, according to study co-author Seong-Joon Kim.”

Ukraine at War Despite Ceasefire with Rebels and the U.S. Continues to Rally Support Against an Ever Growing Islamic State

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On Saturday, despite a ceasefire between Kiev’s forces and Moscow backed rebels in the east, Ukraine is ‘still in a state of war” with Russia, according to the country’s prime minister shortly after a second convoy of Russian trucks rolled into Ukraine, the Associated Press reports, Ukraine Prime Minister says country still in ‘state of war’. Speaking to a conference of politicians and business leaders in Kiev, Arseniy Yatsenyuk said Russian President Vladimir Putin’s goal is to take all of Ukraine: “He cannot cope with the idea that Ukraine would be a part of a big EU family. He wants to restore the Soviet Union.” The second convoy of Russian trucks that entered through rebel held territory in eastern Ukraine on Saturday with 2,000 tons of humanitarian aid. The last truck crossed early Saturday from the Russian border town Donetsk, 120 miles east of the Ukrainian city with the same name, Rayan Farukshin, a spokesman for Russia’s custom agency, told the Associated Press via phone. News Agency ITAR TASS reported 250 trucks were heading toward the city of Luhansk. Col. Andriy Lysenko, a spokesman for the Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council, told journalist Saturday the trucks entered illegally: “Ukraine border guards and customs were not allowed to examine the cargo and vehicles. Representatives of the Red Cross don’t accompany the cargo, nobody knows what’s inside.” President Petro Poroshenko has tried to since last week’s ceasefire to prove that improvements on the ground have happened in eastern Ukraine, but Friday, he admitted that the deal has been riddled with violations. Galina Balzamova, a representative of the ICRC’s Moscow office said, “We were not officially notified of an agreement between Moscow and Kiev to ship the cargo.” Lysenko said 6 Ukrainian servicemen have died since the truce and 12 rebel fighters have been killed by Ukrainian forces near Seas of Azov city of Mariupol. A Saturday statement from the Donetsk city council said that fighting occurred throughout the night near the airport with two shells hitting a residential building in the area and reported no causalities. Laura Mills and Peter Leonard report, Ukraine government repels rebel attack on airport, the convoy of 200 white trucks crossed the border with humanitarian aid to Ukraine on Saturday without Kiev’s consent but was met with silence by Ukraine’s leaders. Yury Stepanov, a Russian overseeing the convoy, said: “Early in the morning, we entered Ukraine to bring aid to Luhansk. We came in around 215 vehicles.” The aid arrived as fighting continued between pro-Russian rebels and government forces. Stepanov said the goods consisted mainly of food such as rice sugar and canned fish and beef, but included medicine, technical equipment and clothes. While local workers unloaded boxes, several carloads of armed militiamen in camouflage arrived to inspect the scene. Stepanov said his team was responsible for delivery, while distribution will be handled by local authorities which means the separatist leaders of the self proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic. Gennady Tsepkalo, a senior separatist officials, said, “The militia will feed itself separately. This is for the residents of the Luhansk People’s Republic.” The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s observer mission to the Russian-Ukrainian border said Saturday that ed220 trucks cross into Ukraine, none of which were inspected by the Ukrainian side or accompanied by the ICRC. Allowing more humanitarian aid into the region was one component of the 12-point deal.

Meanwhile, across the world, ISIS continues to grow stronger as the U.S. continue to rally support internationally in the fight to stop the Islamic extremist, while some neighboring Arab countries in the Middle East choose not to participate. On Sunday, Prime Minister David Cameron summoned military and security chiefs for an emergency meeting in response to the beheading of a British hostage and a threat against another, Gregory Katz reports, UK’s Cameron calls emergency meeting after killing. The meeting was in response to the release of a video showing the beheading of British aid worker David Haines and the threat of another with death by Islamic extremists. Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office said it saw no reason to doubt the authenticity of the video. Haines is the third Westerner to be executed with the first two being U.S. journalists. President Barack Obama said the United would stand with Britain in an expanded effort against terror groups. “We will work with the United Kingdom and a broad coalition of nations from the region and around the world to bring the perpetrators of this outrageous act to justice, and to degrade and destroy this threat to the people of our countries, the region and the world,” he said. Germany and France also condemned the killing during their international conference Monday to combat IS. French President Francois Hollande said, “The odious assassination of David Haines shows once more the need for the international community to mobilize against the base and cowardly Daesh.” German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier called the Haines killing “an abhorrent act of barbaric violence beyond all limits of human civilization” and said the Paris meeting comes at the right time. Some British lawmakers called for Britain to launch air strikes against Islamic State forces after the killing. Desmond Butler reports, Turkey seeks behind-the-scene role in NATO coalition, that Turkey has decided to take a behind the scenes role in the war with the Islamic State group as it wants to keep its soldiers out of combat operations and declined to allow NATO to use its bases or territories to launch air attacks. The reason is rooted in two dilemmas: the Islamic State groups has dozens of Turkish hostages including diplomats and Turkey is wary of boosting its rebellious Kurdish minority in the battle against Islamic State enemies in Iraq. Even though NATO allies have shown publish support for Turkey, they would like more action from heir ally. Butler reports: “They would chiefly like to see Turkey tighten its border controls, stem the flow of fighters transiting Turkey from Western Countries and the Middle East, and crack down on oil smuggling from Syria that finances the Islamic State group. They could also benefit from closer intelligence cooperation and possibly the use of Incirlik Airbase in southern Turkey as a base from which to launch strikes against the group.” Western governments are alarmed by the Islamic State’s ability to smuggle Iraqi and Syrian oil across Turkey’s borders and while Turkey has cracked down, analysts say that Turkey is not able to police the smuggling across its 750 mile border with Iraq and Syria. Both U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Defense Chick Hagel were in Ankara last week on successive trips to press Turkey on its role, but failed to get a pledge of support in combating IS. In addition, Turkey decline to sign a U.S. brokered statement by Middle Eastern countries last week denouncing the Islamic State group and pledging to fight it. Another reason for hesitation is a three decade long conflict with the Kurdish minority that has cost tens of thousands of lives. Last year, Kurdish rebels declared a ceasefire and began withdrawing fighters from Turkey into bases in norther Iraq, but tensions rose again as the Kurdish Workers’ Party, or PKK, accused Turkey of not boosting Kurdish rights quickly enough. Government officials say there are signs that Kurds from Turkey are crossing the border to help PKK militants in Iraq and Syria fight the Islamic State group. Teams of security officials operating at Turkish airports and bus stations have interrogated more than 500 people over the last four months and have deported 107 to their countries of origin, according to one official in the Turkish prime minister’s office. Officials also say they are fighting oil smuggling, but face challenges across a more than 550 mile border with Syria. Lori Hinnant reports, Iran says rejects US call to fight IS militants, Iran will not join the international coalition to fight the militant group. Neither Iran nor Syria, who share most of their borders with Iraq, was invited Monday to the international conference in Paris. Opening the diplomatic conference intended to discuss how to combat the group, French President Francois Hollande said, “The terrorist threat is global and the response must be global. There is no time to lose.” The killing of David Haines, a British aid worker, added to the urgency for a clear strategy to fight the well organized Sunni group who has amassed members from all over the world and makes $3 million a day from oil smuggling, human trafficking, theft and extortion, according to U.S. intelligence officials and private experts. Iraq’s President Fouad Massoum called for a coordinated military and humanitarian approach, as well as regular strikes against territory in the hands of the extremists and the elimination of their funding. According to Hinnant: “Western officials have made clear they consider Syrian President Bashar Assad part of the problem, and U.S. officials opposed France’s attempt to invite Iran, a Shiite nation, to the conference in Paris.” Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, on Iranian state television, said his government refused American requests for cooperation, warning that another U.S> incursion would result “in the same problems they faced in Iraq in the past 10 years.” Ahead of the conference, France’s foreign minister acknowledged many of the countries at the meeting Monday probably financed Islamic State’s advances, while Haider al-Abadi, in his first interview aired Sunday as Iraqi prime minister, told state run al-Iraqiyya that he has given France approval to use Iraq airspace and said all such authorizations must come from Baghdad.

Progress in Gaza and Ukraine as Russian Soldiers Return Home, Escalation Between Obama and ISIS Cast a Big Shadow Over 9/11 Rememberance and an Important Global Warming Update

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In an interview with Al Quds TV on Thursday, Hamas No. 2 Musa Abu Marzouk said “Hamas is willing to talk directly to the Israelis” regarding issues including Gaza border crossings and prisoner releases, according to Ibrahim Barzak, Hamas Says It’s Ready For Direct Talks With Israel. Obtained by the Associated Press, in the taped interview, he said: “Just as you negotiate with weapons you can also negotiate by talk. Up till now our policy was no negotiation with (Israel), but others should be aware that this issue is not taboo.” Israel has consistently said it will not talk directly with Hamas until the group recognizes its right to exist and renounces violence. Abu Marzouk insist the reason for considering take such steps reflects growing tensions with Abbas, whom Hams believes is trying to reclaim control of Gaza. He said, “Hamas finds itself compelled to make this move when the natural rights of the people in Gaza come under pressure from the Palestinian Authority and the government.” Hamza Hendawi and Josef Federman report, Evidence growing that Hamas used residential areas, that evidence is mounting against Hamas militants regarding the use of residential areas as cover for launching rockets at Israel several times which Hamas now admits mistakes were made. According to the Associated Press, Ghazi Hamad, a senior Hamas official in Gaza, said: “Gaza, from Beit Hanoun in the north to Rafah in the south, is one uninterrupted urban chain that Israel has turned into a war zone. The Israelis kept saying rockets were fired from schools or hospitals when in fact they were fired 200 or 300 meters (yards) away. Still, there were some mistakes made and they were quickly dealt with.” According to Palestinian figures, 2,000 Palestinians died with three quarters of them civilians and more than 500 children included, while 11,0000 were wounded and 100,000 left homeless. On the Israeli side, seventy two people died including six civilians. Ahead of the U.N. investigation, the Israeli military released reams of evidence, including satellite photos and aerial footage, to support its claims that it acted appropriately and tried to minimize casualties, while Hamas made no effort to disguise its aim of maximizing Israeli casualties. Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, an Israeli military spokesman, said, “Hamas’ excuses are outrageous, misleading and contrary to the evidence supplied by the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) and the reality documented by international journalists on the ground in Gaza.” A visit to the area uncovered three separate military sites possibly training grounds larger than a football field near state schools concealed from the street with barriers made of corrugated iron. Hamas restricted access to these areas making it impossible for photographers to enter the site and Israel confirmed that the areas were targeted in airstrikes. Another site identified by Israeli military as a rocket launching site is in northern Gaza near the new Indonesian hospital in close proximity to residential homes. The two Hamas military facilities are across the road to the west of the two story hospital which stands intact. Hamad, the Hamas official, said the buildings shown in Israeli videos were either a safe distance from the rocket launchers or the building were vacant during fighting. Bill Van Esyeld, a senior researcher at the Human Rights Watch, said: “I don’t think there’s any doubt urban areas were used to launch rockets from in the Gaza Strip. What needs to be determined is how close to a populated building or a civilian area were those rocket launches.” Sami Abdel Shafi, a Palestinian American representing the Carter Center in Gaza, said: “Yes, Hamas and others may have used civilians as human shields, but was that consistent and widespread? The question is whether Israel’s response was proportionate.” The death toll and number of civilian deaths led to harsh condemnation of Israel and raised questions on the proportionality of Israeli’s response causing Israel, in order to prevent an international investigation, on Wednesday to open its own criminal investigation into two high profile cases involving Palestinian civilian casualties. Hamas also has been sharply criticized for launching rockets aimed at Israeli cities and towns. Israel says its own civilian death toll would have been much higher had it not been for its rocket defenses. The U.N. Human Rights Council has appointed a commission to look into the latest fighting. Its report is expected no sooner than March.

While long standing peace could remain elusive for Gaza and progress is slow to say the least, Ukraine is taking steps forward to ensure peace in eastern Ukraine as Russia beefs up its military strategy. Laura Mills reports, Ukraine’s President Pledges To Give The Country’s East More Autonomy, Ukraine’s president Petro Poroshenko on Wednesday said he will introduce a bill next week offering greater autonomy to the pro-Russian east but rejects the idea of federalization that both Russia and the rebels want. During a televised Cabinet meeting, Poroshenko explained: “[the ceasefire deal reached] envisages the restoration and preservation of Ukrainian sovereignty over the entire territory of Donbas, including the part that is temporarily under control of the rebels. Ukraine has made no concessions with regards to its territorial integrity.” Ukraine and the West both accused Russia of fueling the separatists with arms, expertise and its own troops, something Russia denies. In late August, NATO estimated more than 1,000 troops were operating on Ukrainian spoil and helping the rebels to turn the tide of the war in their favor. In Berlin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel called Wednesday for new sanctions against Russia that would deepen earlier penalties targeting Russia’s energy and arms sectors and tighten Russia’s access to International loans. Merkel told German parliament that the ceasefire improved the situation but there was “a lack of clarity on the fulfillment” of many other points of the peace plan. Ambassadors from EU nations were meeting Wednesday to discuss the sanction against Russia in Brussels. Poroshenko says since the agreement, 70 percent of the Russian troops in Ukraine have been withdrawn and 700 Ukrainian prisoners have been freed from rebel captivity with 500 more being freed by the end of the week. Mills reports: “Col. Andriy Lysenko, spokesman for the Ukrainian National Security Council, told journalists that only 20 servicemen had returned home so far. In Donetsk, a rebel spokesman said a planned exchange of 36 soldiers from each side had been put off until Thursday, blaming the government for the delay. The cease-fire has been violated numerous times and Poroshenko accused the separatists of “provoking” Ukraine’s troops. Ukraine says five servicemen have been killed and 33 injured since Friday. A volley of rocket fire was heard in the rebel-held city of Donetsk late Tuesday.” In a statement carried by Russian news agencies, the leader of the rebels in Luhansk, Igor Plotnitsky, reacted to Poroshenko’s commnets: “Neither we, nor our friends in Donetsk, are going to abandon the course to build our own state. A temporary cease-fire cannot cancel the results of the people’s vote. People voted unanimously for the independence of our republics. There’s no way back to the previous status.” Other rebels have been in favor of a broad autonomy. Plotnitsky said the next round of talks between Moscow, Kiev, the insurgents and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe is likely to discuss the status of the rebel-held areas. The Ukrainian public has been largely supportive of the war against the separatists. Peter Leonard reports, Ukraine, rebels exchange prisoners in peace deal, government and revel forces on Friday exchanged dozens of prisoners captured during fighting in Ukraine as part of a ceasefire agreement earlier this month outside the main rebel stronghold of Donetsk under the watch of international observers. Yurly Tandit, a negotiator for the government, said: “There is an ongoing process of talks. We are meeting each other’s demands and fulfilling our promises.” Meanwhile, Reuters reports, Russia Tests Nuclear Missile, Russia successfully tested their new Bulava intercontinental nuclear missile on Wednesday and will perform two more test launches in October and November, according to the head of its naval forces. The 12-meter long Bulava, or mace, has undergone numerous tests, some of which have failed, causing setbacks for the project that aims to be the cornerstone of Russia’s nuclear arsenal over the next decade. Thomas Grove and Maria Tsvetkova report, Moscow stifles dissent as soldiers return in coffins, that 15 Russian soldiers were killed in Ukraine and hundreds more are in the hospital, according to human rights workers and military workers. A survey by pro-Kremlin pollster Fund of Social Opinions said 57 percent of Russians support the separatists in Donetsk and Luhansk, but only 5 percent support an invasion of Ukrainian territory. Russian authorities have worked to systematically silence rights workers’ complaints over soldiers’ deaths, intimidating those who question the Kremlin’s denials regarding Ukraine. Vladimir Isachenkov reports, Putin: Russia to focus on new offensive weapons, on Wednesday, President Vladimir Putin announced Russia is developing a variety of new nuclear and conventional weapons to counter the U.S. and NATO and weighing the cost to avoid overburdening its economy. Putin said potential threats must be analyzed and an adequate response given to avoid excessive military spending. In addition, he said Russian defense industries must rid themselves of dependence on imports and become capable of producing key components at home, referring to recent Western sanctions imposed on Russian arms sales. Russian West relations are at their lowest point since the Cold War with NATO deciding last week to create a rapid reaction spearhead force to protect Eastern Europe from Russian bullying. Meanwhile, Fred Westerbeke of the Dutch National Prosecutors Office told reporters that most likely the downing of MH17 in eastern Ukraine on July 17 was shot down as a separate Dutch air crash investigation concluded this week that the plane was hit from the outside by numerous high energy objects, according to Mike Corder, Shooting down of MH17 ‘most likely’ scenario. Police chief Patricia Zorko said detectives are poring over 350 million webpages and thousands of photos and films that could contain evidence and are trying to authenticate intercepted phone conversations. Corder reports: “A highly placed rebel officer told the AP in an interview after the disaster that the plane was shot down by a mixed team of rebels and Russian military personnel who believed they were targeting a Ukrainian military plane. Intercepted phone conversations between the rebels released by the Ukrainian government support that version of events.” Detectives and forensic experts are looking at 25 metal objects recovered from bodies and wreckage to see if any clues surface. Westerbeke warns the complex investigation is complex and time consuming comparing it to the Lockerbie bombing hat took years to identify suspects.

As the rebels and Ukraine government try to reach some sort of long lasting peace and stability internally and externally with Russia, the United Stated joined by other countries in their alliance try to wage war against an entity that has spread quickly throughout the Middle East and internationally through recruitment of foreigners to brutal battles. Julie Pace reports, Obama orders airstrikes in Syria for first time, President Barack Obama authorized U.S. airstrikes inside Syria for the first time Wednesday night with expanded strikes in Iraq as part of a “steady, relentless effort” to root out Islamic State extremists. In a prime time address to the nation from the White House, Obama declared: “We will hunt down terrorists who threaten our country, wherever they are. This is a core principle of my presidency: If you threaten America, you will find no safe haven.” Obama announced he will send 500 more U.S. troops to advise and assist Iraqi security forces as well as conduction intelligence and reconnaissance flights, bringing the total number of American forces this summer to 1,500. He urged Congress to authorize a program to train and arm Syrian rebels fighting both the Islamic State militants and Syrian President Bashar Assad. He added: “But I want the American people to understand how this effort will be different from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It will not involve American combat troops fighting on foreign soil.” Officials said Obama plans to proceed with both broader airstrikes in Iraq and Syria without seeking new authorization from Congress as he is acting under a use of force authorization Congress passed in the days following 9/11 to give President George W. Bush the ability to go after those who perpetrated the terror attacks. Obama previously called for its repeal, but used it as support for strikes against terror targets in Yemen and Somalia. Pace reports: “Obama said his approach in Syria is modeled after those long-running U.S. counterterrorism campaigns. But it is different in important ways, starting with the fact that it marks the first time since 9/11 that a U.S. president has authorized the bombing of terror targets in another nation without seeking permission or at least notifying it in advance.” House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, praised Obama for acknowledging the grave and growing threat that the Islamic State poses, but said Obama was coming to that conclusion too late. Boehner said: “He has finally begun to make the case the nation has needed him to make for quite some time: that destroying this terrorist threat requires decisive action and must be the highest priority for the United States and other nations of the free world.”The White House wants Congress to include the authorization in a temporary funding measure lawmakers will vote on before they adjourn this month. Republicans have made no commitment to support the request and the House GOP has so far not included the measure in the funding legislation, while a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the Nevada Democrat might opt to seek separate legislation. The White House announced Wednesday that it was also providing $25 million in immediate military assistance to the Iraqi government as part of efforts to combat the Islamic State. David Cohen, Treasury’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, wrote in a blog post that the U.S. would be working with other countries, especially Gulf states, to cut off the group’s external funding networks and its access to the global financial system. The U.S. has been pressing allies in Europe, the Middle East and elsewhere to help with efforts to degrade the terror group. Meanwhile, rebels, desperate and disenchanted, don’t believe help will come from the West, blaming the United States and its allies for past failures when support was promised and not delivered allowing the rise of ISIS, according to Sophia Jones, Cash-Strapped Moderate Syrian Rebels Blame West For Rise Of Islamic State. The Islamic State has amassed considerable wealth from foreign donations, oil smuggling, extortion and hostage ransoms. They’ve taken control of crucial weapons warehouses and supplies, such as weaponry the U.S. gave to the Iraqi Army. In addition, the new found power has allowed them to gain support by setting up needed infrastructures and imposing order as well as strictly enforced rules such as bans on smoking, and mandates that women wear full-face veils. Jones reports: “Three and a half years into a devastating civil war that has ripped apart the country, Syrian fighters say that if something doesn’t change they’ll lose more and more moderate fighters to the Islamic State. As secular, moderate rebel groups face infighting, divisions and a lack of necessary equipment and training, some may be enticed by the rich and highly organized Islamic State. The group of fighters gathered in the Turkish border town said they usually make roughly $50 a month. But they’ve heard that Islamic State fighters can make $600 or more.” As the rebels fight both the regime and Islamic State, they fear the threat of the jihadi group will cast a shadow over their efforts to curb the regime’s grip on Syria. While the Islamic State beheads U.S. journalists and persecutes and kills religious minorities, the Assad regime continues to indiscriminately bomb civilian areas and likely is using chemical weapons against its own population.

Meanwhile, international, the U.S. tries to rally allegiance from neighboring countries int he Middle East and allies to fight the Islamic State casting a shadow on the 13 anniversary of 9/11. On Thursday, Key Arab allies promised to help in the fight against the Islamic State, but NATO member Turkey refused, Lara Jakes and Adam Schreck report, Arab allies pledge to fight Islamic state group. As the CIA doubled its assessment of how many fighters the extremist group can muster, the Arab states’ endorsed the broad strategy to stop the flow of fighters and funding to the insurgents and to join possible military action. On Thursday, both Republicans and Democrats in Congress joined the President in his call to combat the militants after laying out his long term campaign to include expanding airstrikes against the fighters in Iraq, launching strikes against them in Syria for the first time and bolstering the Iraqi military and moderate Syrian rebels to allow them to reclaim territory from the militants. After a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in thr Red Sea city of Jiddah, 10 Mideast allies announced their backing for a strategy to destroy the group wherever it is. Kerry’s visit, on the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, was aimed at pinning down regional allies and so far 40 nations have agreed to contribute to what Kerry said would be a worldwide fight to defeat the group. Kerry said of the terror attacks on the U.S. 13 years ago: “The devastating consequences of extremist hate remain fresh in the minds of all Americans, and to so many of our friends and allies around the world. Those consequences are felt every day here in the Middle East.” New intelligence assessments estimate the extremists have between 20,000 and 31,500 fighters across Iraq and Syria, up from a figure of 10,000, the CIA said Thursday. CIA spokesman Ryan Trapani said the new total reflects stronger recruitment by extremists since June, following battlefield successes and the group’s declaration of an Islamic State or caliphate on territory under its control. On Friday, Larak Jakes reports, US, Turkey mull strategy against Islamic militants, the United States pressed Turkey to harden its borders against fighters and funding going to the Islamic State and sought clarity on how far Ankara is willing to go to help a world coalition to destroy the group. While Turkey sits on the front line battlegrounds of Iraq and Syria as it assists refugees and cracked down on cross border traffic from both countries, Turkey resist endorsing the new strategy as 49 Turkish citizens have been kidnapped including diplomats. At the start of a meeting with Secretary of State John Kerry, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu cited “challenges and threats” in Iraq and Syria. Jakes reports: “It was the third meeting so far this month between Kerry and Cavusoglu, who also together participated in talks during the annual NATO summit in Wales and this week in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, about the Islamic State threat. Kerry said the two men also will chair a counterterrorism forum at the United Nations General Assembly at the end of September. But the U.S. is being careful to not push Turkey too hard as it grapples with trying to free its hostages. The Turks were kidnapped from their consulate in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul when it was overrun by the Islamic State in June.” In addition, American hostages are being held as payback for the 150 airstrikes that Washington has launched in Iraq since last month. Kerry said: “But I think for the moment, they have a few sensitive issues. We respect those sensitive issues, and we’re going to work with them very carefully.” Rachelle Blinder and Jonathan Lemire report, New terror fight casts shadow over 9/11 ceremonies, due to the growing threat of the Islamic State, a heavy cloud hung over the 13th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks Thursday causing many to feel anxiety and determination in coming to ground zero to remember loved ones. The silence to mark the attack and the roll call of the nearly 3,000 lives lost came hours after President Barack Obama told the country he is authorizing expanded strikes in Iraq and Syria against the Islamic State group. Vasile Poptean said as he left the ceremony, where he had gone to remember his brother, Joshua Poptean: “It’s an ongoing war against terrorists. Old ones die out and new ones pop up. If we don’t engage them now, there’s a possibility there will be another 9/11 down the road.” Victims’ relatives and dignitaries gathers in the plaza where the twin towers stood and now where the soon to open 1,776 foot One World Trade Center stands to commemorate the attacks, while in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where former House Speaker Dennis Hastert gave the flag that flew atop the U.S. Capitol on 9/11 to the Flight 93 National Memorial, did the same. At the Pentagon, Obama spoke at the wreath laying ceremony without mentioning the rise of Islamic State extremists specifically, but noted: “We cannot erase every trace of evil from the world. That was the case before 9/11 and that remains true today.”

As many try to heal old wounds and remember those they lost to what it seems is an endless war, the United Nations along with scientist this week had some good news about the health of the planet. Seth Borenstein reports, Scientists say the ozone layer is recovering, earth’s protective ozone layer has begun to heal largely due to the phase out since the 1980s of certain chemicals used in refrigerants and aerosol cans, the U.N. scientific panel reported Wednesday. Scientists said the development demonstrates that when the world works together, it can counteract a brewing ecological crisis. For the first time in 25 years, scientists confirmed a statistically significant and sustained increase in stratospheric ozone shielding the planet from solar radiation that causes skin cancer, crop damage and other problems. Paul A. Newman, a NASA scientist and co-chaired the every four years ozone assessment by 300 scientist published by the United Nations, said from 2000 to 2013 ozone levels climbed 4 percent in key mid-northern latitudes at 30 miles up. The ozone layer has been thinning since the 1970s due to man made chlorofluorocarbons called CFCs which release chlorine and bromine destroying ozone molecules high in the air. After scientists raised the alarm, countries agreed to a treaty in 1987 that phased out CFCs allowing those chemicals to decrease between 30 and 50 miles up. The United Nations calculated in earlier reports that without the pact, by 2030 there would be an extra 2 million skin cancer cases a year around the world. Newman added that heat trapping greenhouse gases are also helping to rebuild the ozone layer as the cooler air caused by carbon dioxide and other gases increase the amount of ozone. MIT atmospheric scientist Susan Solomon said the chemicals that replaced CFCs contribute to global warming and are on the rise expecting that a dramatic increase will occur by 2050 and make a big contribution to global warming. The long lasting ozone eating chemicals still linger in the atmosphere creating a yearly fall ozone hole over the extreme southern Hemisphere and the hole hasn’t closed up. By Newman’s calculations, the ozone layer is still 6 percent thinner than in 1980. Achim Steiner, executive director of the U.N. Environment Program, said there are encouraging signs that the ozone layer “is on track to recovery by the middle of this century.” He added: “More than 98 percent of the ozone-depleting substances agreed over time have actually been phased out. If not for such efforts, Steiner said, “we would be seeing a very substantial global ozone depletion today.” Earlier this week, the United Nations announced that atmospheric levels of the main greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, surged to another record high in 2013. The increase from 2012 was the biggest jump in three decades.