Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley

Aug. 21 2014 8:29 PM

Top General Says ISIS Cannot Be Defeated Without Striking Syria

Can ISIS be defeated? Not without striking Syria, according to General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

From the New York Times:

“This is an organization that has an apocalyptic end-of-days strategic vision that will eventually have to be defeated,” the chairman, Gen. Martin Dempsey, said in his most expansive public remarks on the crisis since American airstrikes began in Iraq. “Can they be defeated without addressing that part of the organization that resides in Syria? The answer is no.”
But both General Dempsey and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who appeared beside him during a Pentagon news conference, deflected questions about whether the United States military would pursue the Sunni militants from Iraq into Syria, an issue that many defense experts say lies at the heart any attempt to defeat ISIS.
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Earlier on Thursday, the United States resumed its airstrikes against ISIS in northern Iraq. U.S. Central Command has conducted a total of 90 airstrikes since President Obama ordered targeted strikes earlier this month. That the militants who executed James Foley implied they would do the same to another war correspondent, Steven Sotloff, if the airstrikes did not cease seems not to have deterred Obama: The U.S. military announced 14 more airstrikes in northern Iraq one day after footage of Foley's murder was released.

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Aug. 21 2014 6:04 PM

Missouri National Guard Withdrawn From Ferguson as Clashes Subside

After a night of relatively few arrests (six, compared to 155 overall), Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon announced on Thursday that the Missouri National Guard would be leaving Ferguson.

From the Washington Post:

Nixon’s decision came four days after he first called on guard troops to help contain the escalating protests over the police shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown on Aug. 9. The nightly confrontations between protesters and a heavily-armed police force wielding tear gas and rubber bullets have attracted global attention.
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In the statement, Gov. Nixon said that he is giving the order “as we continue to see improvement,” perhaps referring to the comparative calm of Wednesday night. Meanwhile, St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch announced that he would not recuse himself from the investigation into what transpired between Officer Darren Wilson and Brown. State Sen. Jamilah Nasheed had presented a petition signed by 70,000 people to McCulloch's spokesperson asking that he do so. Nasheed explained that the petition signifies that people “have no confidence in [McCulloch’s] ability to be fair and impartial, not just in the City of St. Louis and in Ferguson, but throughout the country.”

Aug. 21 2014 5:42 PM

CNN Says Rumor That Michael Brown Fractured Darren Wilson's Eye Socket is False

The Washington Post reported earlier today that a friend of Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson says Wilson's eye socket was broken during his confrontation with Michael Brown:

The signs of easing tensions came as a family friend of the officer who fatally shot Brown came forward to allege new details of the incident, saying that the officer suffered a fracture to his eye socket in a scuffle with the unarmed teenager before opening fire.
Hospital X-rays of the injury have been submitted to the St. Louis County prosecuting attorney and will be shared with a grand jury now weighing evidence to determine whether Officer Darren Wilson should be charged in the shooting.
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That claim appears to have been undermined. For one, the Post is now reporting that prosecutors have not seen any of Wilson's medical records:

[Spokesperson Ed] Magee said that prosecutors have not received any medical records relating to Wilson so far. ​But he said that since Wilson was taken to the hospital, they assume there are medical records and they just haven’t received them yet.

And CNN producer Julian Cummings, who last week correctly reported that the release of Wilson's name was imminent, reports that the claim Wilson had a broken eye bone is flat-out incorrect:

St. Louis County prosecutor Robert McCulloch says the grand jury that will decide whether or not to indict Wilson may not hear all evidence in the case until October.

Aug. 21 2014 4:28 PM

United States' Highest-Paid CEO Works for Company That's Never Turned a Profit

Here's something fun I saw on Bloomberg TV (whose Market Makers is truly the morning show of champions and/or people who are really interested in the bond market) Thursday morning: The highest-paid CEO in the United States, Charif Souki, works for a company that has never turned a profit.

Souki made $142 million last year, $50 million more than the second-place earner, and since 2002 has worked for a company called Cheniere Energy that according to this article is 50 times smaller than ExxonMobil. What gives? Cheniere, apparently, is expected to be an industry leader in the process of taking hydraulically fracked natural gas and liquefying it for export, and its stock is up 1,800% since 2008. The company has nonetheless faced a shareholder lawsuit over compensation issues and has said it will "reassess" its policies in that department.

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Correction, August 21, 2014: This post originally misspelled ExxonMobil.

Aug. 21 2014 1:18 PM

Officer in Ferguson Calls Ron Johnson Strategy "Hug a Thug," Says He Wants to Punch Eric Holder

A St. Louis-area police officer who's been working in Ferguson falsely accused a group of protestors of shooting at police, said Missouri Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson holds a racial “double standard,” and asserted that he would like to punch attorney general Eric Holder, the St. Louis Riverfront Times reports via a survey of the officer's Twitter posts.

The Riverfront Times appears to have noticed Sgt. Mike Weston's account when Weston said that a group of individuals tear-gassed in their own backyard last week had fired gunshots at police. A Times reporter who witnessed and recorded the incident says none of the protestors were armed. Weston admitted he could not support the accusation when contacted by the reporter—and wasn't even at the scene he was describing:

"There were shots being fired some yards, maybe not this particular one."
Weston then admitted that he wasn't in the group of police officers that was marching down the street and firing tear gas into yards. He said he was in the back closer to the command center, several blocks away.
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The Times also found since-deleted tweets by Weston in which he says he's considering seeking out Eric Holder to punch him, accuses Ron Johnson of practicing a racial "double standard" in Ferguson, and characterizes Johnson's approach to protests as "Hug a Thug." Weston confirmed to the Times that the Twitter account in question was his.

Aug. 21 2014 12:39 PM

Both United States Ebola Patients Released From Hospital

American Ebola patients Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol, medical workers who contracted the virus while working with a missionary group in Liberia, have been released from Emory University hospital in Atlanta. Both left the hospital this morning, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. "God saved my life," Brantly said at a press conference, asking listeners to pray for "the people of Liberia and West Africa."

Brantly and Writebol worked with the Samaritan's Purse organization led by Franklin Graham, whose father is evangelist Billy Graham. Both were treated with an experimental serum called ZMapp created by a company called Mapp Pharmaceuticals. The drug has since been given to a limited number of patients in Africa.

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Here's video of today's press conference:

Aug. 21 2014 11:19 AM

Hamas Claims Responsibility for Kidnapping, Murder of Israeli Teenagers in June

One of the key precipitating events in the current war between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza was the June kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank. Israel blamed Hamas for the killings, and the subsequent crackdown on the group may have provoked the rocket fire that set off Israel's airstrikes and ground invasion. It had remained an open question whether the kidnapping and murder had been ordered by Hamas' leadership or was the act of a rogue cell. Wednesday, though, a "a top Hamas official" living in Turkey claimed the killings were an organized Hamas operation. From Haaretz:

A video captured during the conference shows Salach Al-Aruri, who is based in Turkey and is considered a primary figure within Hamas, saying that the Iz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades were responsible for the abduction of the three youths, Eyal Yifrach, 19, Gilad Shaar, 16, and Naftali Fraenkel, 16. ..."The al-Qassam's mujahedeen were the ones to carry out [the abduction] in show of support for the prisoners' hunger strike," he adds, referring to Palestinian inmates held in Israel.
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Meanwhile, in Gaza, Israeli airstrikes killed three senior Hamas military commanders early this morning. The three men were mourned and buried by what the New York Times describes as a crowd of approximately 10,000 people.

Aug. 21 2014 10:22 AM

Were Police Justified in Shooting Kajieme Powell?

The St. Louis Police Department's release of video showing the Tuesday killing of 25-year-old Kajieme Powell by two officers has set off discussion of whether the decision to shoot Powell was justified. Initial police accounts of the incident said that Powell was holding a knife in an "overhand grip," had moved to within 3 or 4 feet of responding officers, and was acting erratically. The Huffington Post writes that the video "appears at odds" with that account:

... the newly released cell phone footage undermines the statement, showing Powell approaching the cops, but not coming as close as was reported, with his hands at his side. The officers began shooting within 15 seconds of their arrival, hitting Powell with a barrage of bullets.
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In the video, several other people are standing near Powell and don't appear to be obviously in fear for their lives. Officers pull their vehicle up close to him and begin shooting soon after getting out of their car with guns drawn. Writes Vox:

The footage is horrifying to watch, in part for the speed with which it turns from comic to tragic. It begins with a man chuckling over Powell's erratic — but seemingly harmless — behavior. Seconds later, Powell is dead.

On the other side of the argument, it's inarguable that Powell refused officers' orders to drop his knife and then moved toward them. A source told CNN's Jake Tapper that police act under the assumption that a suspect armed with a knife standing within 20 feet will be able to wound them if their weapons are not already drawn:

A representative of the St. Louis Police Officers Association told St. Louis Public Radio the video is "exculpatory."* Watch the footage on YouTube here.

Correction, Aug. 21, 2014: This post originally misspelled St. Louis Police Officers Association.

Aug. 20 2014 9:58 PM

Supreme Court Puts Same-Sex Marriage in Virginia on Hold

The Supreme Court decreed today that same-sex marriage licenses won't be issued this week in Virginia after all, putting a lower court's ruling on hold on Wednesday.

From the Washington Post:

The court stayed a decision by a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, which on July 28 agreed with a district judge’s ruling that Virginia’s ban is unconstitutional. The same panel declined last week to delay its ruling.
The Supreme Court’s action was expected. Its one-paragraph order came without noted dissent from any of the nine justices and was consistent with its decision granting a stay in Utah, another state where a ban was found unconstitutional.
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The court said the stay would continue until they decide whether or not to take the case. If they did take the case, the stay would continue untiil they issued a ruling. According to CNN, same-sex marriage is now legal in the District of Columbia, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington state.

Aug. 20 2014 9:15 PM

The Latest on Ferguson: Police Release Video of Kajieme Powell Shooting, Holder Visits

Slate will post running news updates about the situation in Ferguson below. For other Slate coverage of Ferguson, click here.

Update, 9:00 p.m.: St. Louis police released eyewitness video on Wednesday of the shooting of Kajieme Powell. The 25-year-old Powell was killed after a confrontation with police officers on Tuesday just a few miles from where unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot and killed by police officer Darren Wilson earlier this month. Two witnesses in the extremely graphic video said they saw the police handcuffing Powell after killing him. The St. Louis Police Department said that the two officers fired 12 shots at Powell after he ignored orders to put down a knife that they said appeared to be a steak knife.

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The department tweeted:

In a meeting with 50 community leaders, meanwhile, U.S. attorney general Eric Holder explained that he could understand why black civilians are distrustful of those sworn to serve and protect. “I understand that mistrust,” Holder said. “I am the attorney general of the United States. But I am also a black man. … I can remember being stopped on the New Jersey turnpike on two occasions and accused of speeding. … I remember how humiliating that was and how angry I was and the impact it had on me.” He also noted, “We are starting here a good dialogue. But the reality is the dialogue is not enough. We need concrete action to change things in this country.”

“History,” Holder said, “simmers beneath the surface in more communities than just Ferguson.”

Update, 11:50 a.m.: The QuikTrip convenience store and gas station that was destroyed the night after Michael Brown was killed was attacked because a rumor spread that its employees had called 911 to report Brown for a robbery, the Washington Post's Wesley Lowery reports. Brown was in fact suspected of robbing a different store—the Ferguson Market—nearby, and police have said that officer Darren Wilson was not aware of the robbery when he shot Brown. The Post report notes that the QuikTrip became a major meeting point for protestors, but has now been fenced off by crews conducting repairs.

Original post, 10:23 a.m.: The relatively peaceful atmosphere described in Ferguson Tuesday night appears to have held through to the morning, reports indicate. From NPR:

Missouri Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson, who is in charge of security in Ferguson, announced that 47 arrests had been made, and that three loaded handguns were confiscated.
"Tonight we saw a different dynamic," Johnson said, according to St. Louis Public Radio. "Protest crowds were a bit smaller and they were out earlier. We had to respond to fewer incidents than the night before. There were no Molotov cocktails tonight."

BuzzFeed's Jim Dalrymple II was on the scene and writes that a police strategy of gradually closing off public areas—doing so firmly but without the use of tear gas or smoke bombs—helped wind down protests without provoking violence:*

As the protesters marched through the evening and the night wore on, the police began preparing to move the protesters into smaller and smaller areas. The first major push, just after 11 p.m. CT, was to clear a parking lot. People weren’t happy as they retreated, but for the most part they didn’t resist.

One thing Dalrymple's report does not note is any insistence by police that protesters leave the streets completely and return to their homes, a demand that has been made on previous nights; at one point, he writes, police told protesters in a parking lot that they could stay as long as they wanted.

*Correction, Aug. 20, 2014: This post originally misspelled BuzzFeed reporter Jim Dalrymple II's last name.

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