**Obama Claims Authority to Expand Strikes to Syria
President Obama has authorized U.S. airstrikes for the first time in Syria and their expansion in Iraq against the militant group Islamic State. In a prime-time address, Obama vowed to hunt down Islamic State militants “wherever they are.”
President Obama: “We will hunt down terrorists who threaten our country, wherever they are. That means I will not hesitate to take action against ISIL in Syria, as well as Iraq. This is a core principle of my presidency: If you threaten America, you will find no safe haven. … 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. This counterterrorism campaign will be waged through a steady, relentless effort to take out ISIL wherever they exist, using our air power and our support for partners’ forces on the ground.”
Obama also announced he is sending 475 more U.S. military troops to Iraq, bringing the total to 1,600.
**Family: Sotloff Was Sold to ISIS by “Moderate” Rebels
President Obama’s plan includes more than $500 million to arm and train Syrian rebels. One group that has cast doubt on aiding the Syrian opposition is the family of Steven Sotloff, the American journalist whose videotaped beheading helped mobilize calls for U.S. airstrikes. Speaking to CNN, a family spokesperson said Sotloff was sold off to ISIL by other Syrian rebels.
Barak Barfi: “For the first time, we can say Steven was sold at the border. Steven’s name was on a list that he had been responsible for the bombing of a hospital. This was false. Activists spread his name around.”
Anderson Cooper: “He was sold at the border?”
Barak Barfi: “Yes. We believe that the so-called moderate rebels that people want our administration to support, one of them sold him probably for something between $25,000 and $50,000 to ISIS. And that was the reason that he was captured.”
**Saudi Arabia to Host Training of Syrian Opposition
To coincide with President Obama’s speech, the White House announced Saudi Arabia will host a training program for “the moderate Syrian opposition” to combat ISIL. Saudi Arabia is one of the largest sources of funding for ISIL and other jihadist groups.
**Dozens Arrested in Ferguson at Highway Protest
Dozens of people have been arrested in Ferguson, Missouri, in a protest over the police shooting of Michael Brown. A crowd of more than 100 gathered Wednesday to block a state highway in a call for the replacement of St. Louis County Attorney Robert McCulloch in favor of a special prosecutor.
Unidentified: “Our problem ain’t in Afghanistan. It’s right here with these racist police officers. That’s where our problem is. Our problem ain’t in no other country. Our black folk problem is right here in America with these racist white folks.”
The demonstrators were blocked from entering the highway by a larger number of police in riot gear, who arrested around 35 people for failure to disperse. A handful of demonstrators threw objects at police. Organizers say they plan to stage more blockades until the officer who killed Brown, Darren Wilson, is indicted.
**U.N.: Ozone Layer Recovering; New Steps Needed to End HFCs
New figures show the ozone layer is restoring after years of depletion. The United Nations says stratospheric ozone is on pace to fully recover by the middle of the century. Achim Steiner of the United Nations Environment Programme credited the banning of certain chemicals from aerosol and refrigerants under the 1987 Montreal Protocol.
Achim Steiner: “The world avoided a major problem by getting rid of ozone-depleting substances by the Montreal Protocol. Indeed, without this protocol and all the actions that we have taken across the globe, we would be seeing a very substantial global ozone depletion today. We’ve seen evidence of a decline in ozone-depleting substances over the past decade. Now we are starting to see increasingly encouraging signs from ozone measurements that the ozone layer is on track to recovery by the middle of this century.”
Without the Montreal Protocol, the United Nations says two million extra cases of skin cancer would have occurred each year by 2030. But this rare bit of environmental news has also come at a cost. Many companies have replaced ozone-depleting chemicals with hydrofluorocarbons, HFCs, which worsen global warming.
Achim Steiner: “We are at a critical point. Where HFCs were introduced in order to address the issue of ozone depletion, what we did not anticipate at the time or what was not foreseen is that if the use of HFCs continues to increase at the rate that we now envisage, which is roughly increasing at a rate of 7 percent a year, and you begin to extrapolate that, then by the year 2050 you could have a major negative issue and challenge in terms of global warming.”
The U.N. says HFCs can be phased out if new action is taken, on top of broader action to tackle global warming. Michel Jarraud of the World Meteorological Organization said: “International action on the ozone layer is a major environmental success story. This should encourage us to display the same level of urgency and unity to tackle the even greater challenge of climate change.”
**Ebola Toll Tops 2,300; 4th Patient Arrives in U.S.
The official death toll from the Ebola outbreak in West Africa has topped 2,300 with warnings of a significant jump in the coming days. A Liberian minister is warning the virus is “devouring everything in its path.” The coordinator of United Nations Operations in Liberia, Karin Landgren, said the numbers do not capture the actual toll.
Karin Landgren: “I can’t say enough about just how grave this is, just how deep the needs are and just how great the challenge is going to be. The Ebola numbers that we have officially today are over 2,000 suspected, probable or confirmed cases and over 1,200 deaths due to Ebola in Liberia. But as the Wold Health Organization has warned us, these are not the true numbers. They don’t capture the true toll of Ebola. And in the next few days we should expect to be working with significantly higher numbers.”
The Pentagon is building a 25-bed field hospital in Liberia, but it will only treat foreign healthcare workers affected by the virus. Meanwhile, a fourth Ebola patient arrived in the United States this week to receive treatment at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta.
**Israel Probes 2 High-Profile Gaza Killings
The Israeli military says it has opened criminal probes of two of its most publicized killings of Palestinian civilians during the summer’s assault on Gaza. Investigators will examine the killing of four Palestinian children on a Gaza beach and a later attack that killed 14 people in a U.N. school, one of several hitting U.N. shelters. At least 2,100 Palestinians, more than 75 percent civilian, were killed in the Israeli assault. Critics say Israel is seeking to deflect international scrutiny, including a United Nations Human Rights Council probe and potential cases before the International Criminal Court.
**Israeli Officials Admit Hamas Leadership Had No Part in Kidnappings
The Israeli government has quietly acknowledged Hamas leaders had no role in the abduction of three Israeli teens that led to a massive raid in the West Bank and the ensuing Gaza assault. According to the New York Times, documents released by Israeli police “provide no evidence that the top leaders of Hamas directed or had prior knowledge of the plot to abduct the three Israeli youths.” The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reports Israeli intelligence has concluded the abduction “was carried out by an independent cell.”
**Israeli Officer Charged for Beating of U.S. Teen
An Israeli police officer meanwhile has been charged with the beating of a Palestinian-American teenager that was caught on tape. Tariq Abu Khdeir was watching demonstrations in East Jerusalem when he was seized. The video shows him lying on the ground as the officers repeatedly beat him with batons. He was left with facial bruises and severely swollen eyes and lips. Tariq was a cousin of Mohammed Abu Khdeir, the Palestinian teen burned alive in a revenge attack for the killings of the three Israelis in the West Bank.
**Hundreds Attend Funeral for Palestinian Killed in Israeli Raid
In the West Bank, hundreds of people gathered for the funeral of a Palestinian man shot dead by Israeli forces in an overnight raid. Twenty-two-year-old Issa al Qitri is one of more than two dozen Palestinians killed by Israeli forces in the West Bank in the past two months.
**Bahrain Allies Urged to Pressure Monarchy for Political Prisoners’ Release
Bahrain continues to face calls to release more than a dozen dissidents and human rights activists jailed for criticizing the U.S.-backed monarchy. Human rights activist Maryam Alkhawaja has been jailed for over a week after trying to enter the country. Alkhawaja says customs officials told her she no longer holds citizenship. She had been trying to visit her ailing father, Abdulhadi Alkhawaja, who remains on a hunger strike behind bars. Hundreds of people have taken part in rallies inside Bahrain since her detention. In a statement, Human Rights Watch said: “[They] are in jail only because they vigorously called for democratic reforms … Washington and London and others … should make their voices heard loud and clear in Manama.” Bahrain is a key U.S. government ally, hosting the Navy’s Fifth Fleet.
**NFL Was Sent Rice Video; Former FBI Chief to Lead Probe
A law enforcement official says the National Football League was sent the video of Ray Rice knocking out his fiancée in a casino elevator. The tape’s release this week led to Rice’s indefinite suspension. Details of the case had been known for months, but the NFL said the new tape forced it to act. Speaking to the Associated Press, an anonymous official said an NFL executive was sent a copy of the tape in April. The source could not confirm if anyone at the NFL watched the tape, but could confirm the league acknowledged its delivery. The office of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has said neither he nor any other official obtained or saw the video before this week. ABC News also reports Rice’s team, the Baltimore Ravens, was made aware Rice’s lawyers had a copy of the video, but did not follow up. In response to the controversy, Goodell has brought in former FBI Director Robert Mueller to conduct an independent investigation on the league’s behalf. According to the website Sidespin, NFL players have been involved in 56 domestic violence cases under Goodell’s tenure. Of those 56, the players have been suspended a combined 13 games.
**Texas Carries Out Execution after Failed Appeal
Texas has executed a convicted double-murderer by lethal injection, the eighth by the state this year. The killing of Willie Trottie came shortly after the Supreme Court rejected his last-minute appeals. Attorneys had argued Texas was using expired drugs to end Trottie’s life and that he had received inadequate counsel at his original trial.