Headlines September 08, 2014

**Obama Delays Executive Action on Immigration, Denies Midterms as Factor
President Obama has confirmed he will not fulfill his pledge to take executive action on immigration reform by summer’s end. Obama had promised a broad overhaul in the face of Republican obstruction, including a potential new reprieve to slow his record-breaking deportations. But over the weekend, the White House cited what it called House Republicans’ “extreme politicization of this issue” for forcing Obama to wait until after the midterm elections. Obama had faced calls from a number of Democrats to delay action so as not to hurt their election chances this November. In an interview with Chuck Todd of NBC, Obama denied Democratic midterm success as his motivation. Instead, Obama said he needs more time to convince the U.S. public on the merits of his approach.

President Obama: “I’m being honest now, about the politics of it. This problem with unaccompanied children that we saw a couple if weeks ago, where you had from Central America a surge of kids who are showing up at the border, got a lot of attention. And a lot of Americans started thinking, ’We’ve got this immigration crisis on our hands.’ Now, the fact of the matter is, is that the number of people apprehended crossing our borders has plummeted over the course of the decade. It’s far lower than it was 10 years ago. And in terms of these unaccompanied children, we’ve actually systematically worked through the problem so that the surge in June dropped in July, dropped further in August. It’s now below what it was last year. But that’s not the impression on people’s minds. And what I want to do is, when I take executive action, I want to make sure that it’s sustainable.”

**Immigrant Rights Group: Obama Delay “a Betrayal of Latino Community”
Immigrant rights advocates have denounced President Obama’s decision. In a statement, the group Presente said: “This delay is a betrayal of the Latino community, and is certainly one of the single biggest attacks on Latino families by the Democratic Party in recent memory. With news of recently deported children dying in Honduras and record level deportations and separations of families continuing, all eyes are on the President’s actions that totally devalue Latino life.”

**Obama to Push Expanded Offensive Against Islamic State
President Obama has launched an effort to rally Congress and the public behind a sustained offensive against the militant group Islamic State. Obama is set to meet with Congress on Tuesday followed by a national address the following day. He discussed the plan Sunday on NBC’s Meet the Press.

President Obama: “We’re not looking at sending in 100,000 American troops. We are going to be, as part of an international coalition, carrying out airstrikes in support of work on the ground by Iraqi troops, Kurdish troops. We are going to be helping to put together a plan for them so that they can start retaking territory that ISIL had taken over. What I want people to understand, though, is that over the course of months we are going to be able to not just blunt the momentum of ISIL, we are going to systematically degrade their capabilities, we’re going shrink the territory that they control, and ultimately we’re going to defeat them.”

The United States says it will lead the offensive against the Islamic State with a so-called “core coalition” of 10 countries. The White House says the fight could last beyond the end of Obama’s term in early 2017. The news follows a month of U.S. bombing attacks against ISIL fighters in Iraq. Over the weekend, American warplanes expanded the offensive with strikes against militants near the Haditha Dam.

**Al-Shabab Names New Leader, Vows Revenge for U.S. Strike
The Somali militant group al-Shabab has confirmed the killing of its leader Ahmed Abdi Godane in a U.S. drone strike last week. Godane had headed al-Shabab since 2008, overseeing a number of attacks, including last year’s rampage in a Kenyan shopping mall that left 67 dead. The group has named a new leader, Sheikh Ahmad Umar Abu Ubaidah, and vowed to exact revenge for Godane’s killing. Somalia has put its military forces on high alert for a potential attack.

**Ukraine-Rebel Ceasefire Holds Despite Sporadic Violence
A ceasefire between the Ukrainian government and pro-Russian rebels appears to be holding despite a weekend of scattered attacks. A deal brokered on Friday was followed by clashes around 24 hours later in Donetsk and Mariupol. The truce lays out the “decentralization of power” as a key component of any long-term agreement, but both Ukraine and its rival Russia have pushed diverging proposals for what that would mean. It also calls for a mass prisoner exchange. The ceasefire was reached as NATO approved a 4,000-strong force capable of rapid deployment in eastern Europe to confront Russia.

**Amnesty: Both Sides Committing War Crimes in Ukraine; Imagery Proves Russia Role
Unveiling a new report, Amnesty International’s Salil Shetty accused both sides of war crimes, and said satellite imagery proves Russian military involvement in Ukraine.

Salil Shetty: “Russia can’t deny being a party to the conflict anymore. Very systematic, well-organized mobile artillery and armored units in place, there’s no way the separatist forces could have organized that themselves. On top of that, we also have eyewitness accounts of movement of Russian tanks across the border. We’re getting reports of different types of violations and also indiscriminate shelling which is happening, and all of these need to be investigated, and that’s what we’re calling on, because in a war situation, in a conflict situation, unless you go into the details, you can’t be absolutely certain. But from everything we’ve seen, we can be quite sure that both sides can be accused of war crimes at this point.”

The United Nations says more than 3,000 people have died in eastern Ukraine since violence broke out in April, including the 298 passengers killed when a Malaysia Airlines flight was shot down.

**African Union Holds Emergency Talks as Study Points to Potential Vaccine
The African Union is holding an emergency meeting on the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. More than 2,000 people have been killed, and the United Nations has warned the toll could hit 20,000 before the virus is contained. Hopes were slightly raised over the weekend as a new study found an experimental vaccine gave full protection to monkeys for at least five weeks to up to 10 months. It is the first time a vaccine program has led to sustained Ebola immunity. U.S. researchers have now begun human trials. On Friday, WHO Assistant Director General Marie-Paule Kieny said two experimental vaccines could be available for health workers by November.

Dr. Marie-Paule Kieny: “We will have results of safety by November 2014, and after that, these vaccines will start to be rolled out in the affected countries, starting with healthcare workers and other front-line staff in the affected countries. So this is real. This is going into the field. This is not staying it in laboratories.”

**Obama: U.S. Military Will Assist Global Ebola Response
The United Nations has now set a goal of containing the epidemic within six to nine months. Speaking to NBC’s “Meet the Press,” President Obama said the U.S. military will play a role in the international response.

President Obama: “We’re going to have to get U.S. military assets just to set up, for example, isolation units and equipment there to provide security for public health workers surging from around the world. If we do that, then it’s still going to be months before this problem is controllable in Africa, but it shouldn’t reach our shores. … If we don’t make that effort now and this spreads, not just through Africa, but other parts of the world, there is the prospect then that the virus mutates, it becomes more easily transmittable, and then it could be a serious danger to the United States.”

**Bush Memo: “Congress Cannot Curtail” Warrantless Spying
A pair of newly released documents reveal more details about the Bush administration’s legal rationale for the warrantless wiretapping of American citizens after the 9/11 attacks. The documents relate to sweeping surveillance conducted by the National Security Agency under the program known as Stellar Wind. In a decade-old memo obtained by The Washington Post, Jack Goldsmith, who led President George W. Bush’s Office of Legal Counsel, says the 9/11 attacks justify what he calls the president’s “inherent constitutional authority” to order warrantless wiretapping, an authority “that Congress cannot curtail.” Patrick Toomey, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, told The Washington Post the memo’s conclusions “suggest that the president’s power to monitor the communications of Americans is virtually unlimited … when it comes to foreign intelligence.” Toomey also said that while the Obama administration’s legal rationales may have shifted, “some of today’s surveillance programs are even broader and more intrusive than those put in place more than a decade ago by President Bush.”

**NBA Owner to Sell Team after Email Seeking to Attract Racist Audience
The majority owner of the National Basketball Association’s Atlanta Hawks is selling his stake over the disclosure of a racially charged email. In August 2012, Bruce Levenson wrote his co-owners and general manager to ask that more be done in order to attract “southern whites” uncomfortable around African-American spectators. Citing the playing of hip-hop music and a cheerleading squad that’s majority black, Levenson said: “My theory is that the black crowd scared away the whites and there are simply not enough affluent black fans to build a significant season ticket base … I never felt uncomfortable, but I think southern whites simply were not comfortable being in an arena or at a bar where they were in the minority.” Levenson calls that attitude “racist garbage,” but concludes that it should still be catered to in order to boost ticket sales. Levenson has now apologized for what he says was “inflammatory nonsense” on his part. It is the second time in months an NBA owner has sold his controlling interest over racist remarks, following the Donald Sterling sale of the Los Angeles Clippers.

**Federal Judge Approves $41 Million Central Park Five Settlement
A federal judge has approved New York City’s $41 million settlement with the Central Park Five, wrongfully convicted of raping a female jogger in Central Park 25 years ago. The five black and Latino men were tried as teenagers. Media coverage at the time portrayed them as guilty and used racially coded terms to describe them. But their convictions were vacated in 2002 when the real rapist came forward and confessed, after the five had already served jail terms of up to 13 years. Each man of the five will receive around $1 million for each year they were wrongfully imprisoned. The agreement is one of several civil rights settlements under New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio after fierce opposition from his predecessor, Michael Bloomberg.

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