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10 things you need to know today: September 1, 2014

Harold Maass
Russian President Vladimir Putin suggests statehood for southeastern Ukraine Robert Cianfione / Getty Images
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Putin spokesman softens statehood push for eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday called on Kiev to begin talks about granting "statehood in southeastern Ukraine." Yet after the blunt remark riled Western observers, Putin's spokesman, Dmitri Peskov, said he wasn't calling for independence per se — just greater autonomy for southeastern Ukraine under its current national government.The U.S. and its Western allies have imposed sanctions to punish Russia for its support of separatists and its March annexation of Ukraine's breakaway Crimea region. [The New York Times]


Judge blocks Louisiana abortion law

A federal judge temporarily blocked enforcement of Louisiana's tough new abortion law shortly before it was to take effect on Monday. The law technically can remain on the books, but doctors can't be penalized for violating it until a court challenge is resolved. The law requires doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. Opponents say it will force the state's five abortion clinics to close. [The Washington Times]


Israel announces land seizure

Israel announced on Sunday that it was taking 988 acres of land in a Jewish settlement near Bethlehem, in the occupied West Bank, in what an anti-settlement group called the biggest such land grab in 30 years. The Obama administration urged Israel to reverse the decision, calling it "counterproductive" to negotiations on a two-state solution to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. [Reuters]


Islamists take control of the abandoned U.S. embassy in Libya

The Islamist militia coalition Dawn of Libya took over the U.S. embassy compound in Tripoli on Sunday. The U.S. abandoned the post a month ago as fighting intensified among militia groups. A Dawn of Libya commander said the group had controlled the embassy since seizing much of the capital last week. Members of the group reportedly celebrated with an impromptu pool party. [The Guardian]


Pro-democracy protesters clash with police in Hong Kong

Protests broke out in Hong Kong on Monday in reaction to China's decision to rule out full democracy in the Asian financial center. Police used pepper spray to disperse a crowd of pro-democracy activists after a tense stand-off in front of a center where a senior Chinese official was explaining the decision. A movement called Occupy Central threatened future protests unless Beijing allows free elections in 2017. [Reuters]


Demonstrators take over Pakistan's state TV headquarters

About 1,000 anti-government protesters in Pakistan stormed the headquarters of the state-run television system and halted broadcasts on Monday morning. The demonstrators, brandishing wooden clubs, ransacked the building before Pakistani troops regained control. Most of the protesters reportedly appeared to be backers of cleric Muhammad Tahir-ul Qadri, who is demanding Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's resignation. [The New York Times]


U.S. trained Alaskans to counter a Cold War invasion

The U.S. government recruited and trained fishermen, bush pilots, trappers, and others in Alaska early in the Cold War to provide intelligence in the event of a Soviet invasion, according to newly declassified documents. The plan was to have the citizen-agents hide if Soviet paratroopers came, and to then use stashes of food, cold-weather gear, and messaging equipment to report on enemy movements. The project was code-named "Washtub." [The Associated Press]


Five killed in Colorado small-plane crash

Five people were killed Sunday when a small plane crashed near an airport in Erie, Colorado, north of Denver. The Piper PA-46 airplane went down just a few hundred yards from the runway. Authorities could not immediately determine whether it had been landing or taking off. The wreckage was first reported by a driver passing the airport. Another witness reported seeing "a plume of dust shoot into the air," but no sound. [USA Today]


49ers player Ray McDonald faces domestic violence charge

San Francisco 49ers defensive tackle Ray McDonald was arrested Sunday on suspicion of felony domestic violence. Police did not elaborate on the circumstances of the case. The 49ers' general manager, Trent Baalke, said the football team took such allegations seriously, but reserved comment on the case. The arrest came days after NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announced harsher penalties for league employees charged with domestic or sexual assault. [San Francisco Chronicle]


Celebrities call hacking scandal a disgusting violation of privacy

Hackers posted nude photos of Hunger Games star Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Upton, Lea Michele, Ariana Grande, Kirsten Dunst, and others on Sunday. A spokesperson for Lawrence blasted the leak as a "flagrant violation of privacy" and threatened anyone reposting the images, which first appeared on image-sharing site 4chan, with prosecution. Mary Elizabeth Winstead said she could "only imagine the creepy effort that went into this" given how long ago she had deleted the hacked photos of her. [Variety]

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