Daily Briefing

10 things you need to know today: August 19, 2014

Harold Maass
At least 31 protesters were arrested in Ferguson, Missouri, last night. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
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Obama sends Holder to Ferguson

Protesters and police clashed again Monday night in Ferguson, Missouri, despite the arrival of National Guard troops. Police came under "heavy gunfire," said Captain Ron Johnson, who blamed "a tiny minority of law-breakers" for the violence. Two civilians were shot, though not by police, and 31 were arrested. President Obama announced Monday that he was sending Attorney General Eric Holder to Ferguson on Wednesday to talk with investigators about the fatal police shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown. Holder also will speak with community leaders in a bid to restore peace after 10 days of unrest. [NBC News, The Washington Post]


Civilians killed fleeing heavy fighting in eastern Ukraine

Dozens of Ukrainian civilians were killed Monday when their convoy of buses was hit with rockets and mortar fire as they tried to escape heavy fighting around the besieged rebel-stronghold of Luhansk. The Ukrainian government said some of the victims, who included children, were burned alive in the vehicles. The government blamed pro-Russian separatists. Rebels said soldiers fired the deadly barrage. [USA Today]


Gaza truce extended by another 24 hours

Israel and Hamas agreed Monday to extend their cease-fire by another day to allow peace talks to continue in Egypt. Israel is calling for disarmament of Palestinian militants in Gaza. Hamas, the Islamist Palestinian faction that controls the devastated seaside enclave, is demanding a freer flow of goods into Gaza, reconstruction of a destroyed airport, and other concessions as part of a long-term peace. [Reuters]


Obama says Iraqis have taken back dam from insurgents

President Obama, back from his Martha's Vineyard vacation for two days of White House crisis meetings, confirmed Monday that U.S. airstrikes had helped Kurdish and Iraqi forces retake the strategically important Mosul Dam from ISIS fighters. Obama said the victory proved that Iraqis could turn back the Sunni extremists, and just in time. "If that dam was breached," Obama said, "it could have proven catastrophic." [The New York Times]


Former senator Jeffords dies at 80

Former Vermont senator James Jeffords, who single-handedly gave Democrats control of the evenly divided Senate in 2001 by defecting from the GOP, died Monday at a military retirement home. He was 80. Jeffords left the Republican Party and became an independent, but caucused with the Democrats, depriving then-president George W. Bush of a majority and helping Democrats block much of Bush's agenda. [Reuters]


Robbers take $335,000 from Saudi prince in Paris ambush

Eight gunmen robbed the motorcade of a Saudi Arabian prince in a commando-style ambush in Paris. The royal, whom police declined to identify, was traveling from the Four Seasons Hotel George V hotel — where a "Premiere Room" goes for nearly $2,200 a night — to Le Bourget Airport, which is used by many private jets. The thieves reportedly got away with a suitcase filled with about $335,000. [The New York Times]


WHO urges West African nations to check departing travelers for Ebola

The World Health Organization on Monday urged West African nations affected by Ebola to start screening all people leaving from international airports, sea ports, and major land border crossings. Authorities in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea said they were already checking departing travelers for signs of Ebola infection. WHO, the United Nations' health agency, has been criticized for not responding faster to the outbreak. [The Associated Press]


Pope gives U.S. airstrikes in Iraq cautious approval

Pope Francis on Monday gave tentative approval to U.S. airstrikes that have helped Kurdish and Iraqi forces make gains against ISIS fighters. The pontiff said it was morally legitimate to use force to stop an aggressor, but that no nation should make that call on its own. Pope Francis also said he was considering traveling to Iraq soon to show support for Iraqis, particularly the country's Christians. [The Boston Globe]


Poachers kill 100,000 African elephants in three years

Ivory poachers have killed 100,000 elephants — out of a total of 472,000 to 690,000 — in just three years, according to a study published Tuesday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. If the pace continues, the animals could be extinct in 100 years, the researchers estimate. "We are shredding the fabric of elephant society," lead author George Wittemyer of Colorado State University said. [National Geographic, BBC News]


Ballmer promises Clippers fans NBA titles

Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, the new owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, introduced himself to thousands of fans on Monday, and promised to lead the team to its first NBA title. A 26-year season ticket holder named Michael Marks said it was a relief to have someone with Ballmer's energy — and wealth — replace former owner Donald Sterling. "He's going to be like the Steinbrenner of basketball for us," Marks said. [Los Angeles Times]