Crisis in Iraq
August 8, 2014
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

After President Obama authorized limited air strikes in Iraq on Thursday evening, American warplanes today bombed artillery equipment being used by the extremist group ISIS to shell the Kurdish capital of Erbil.

Most Americans had never heard of ISIS until June, when the cash-rich Sunni jihadist group suddenly seized Mosul, Iraq's second largest city, sending tens of thousands of Iraqi government soldiers fleeing, and raising the threat of full-blown civil war in the fragile Mideast nation.

Where did ISIS come from? As The Week's Frances Weaver wrote last month:

ISIS grew out of al Qaeda in Iraq, the Sunni Islamist outfit that fought U.S. and Iraqi troops during the early years of the Iraq War. When the group was routed by Sunni moderates in 2008, its fighters reinvented themselves as ISIS and regrouped in neighboring Syria, where they seized territory during the chaotic uprising against President Bashar al-Assad. The withdrawal of American troops from Iraq in 2011 left another security vacuum, one ISIS has been able to exploit over the past year with the unintentional help of Iraq's Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Following the U.S. departure, the Iraqi leader purged the government and security forces of Sunnis — who make up just over a third of the country's 33 million people. Alienated and angry, many Sunnis have supported ISIS in its fight against the Shiite-dominated central government. Maliki, says Michael Knights at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, "played right into [ISIS's] hands." [The Week]

Learn more about ISIS here. Ben Frumin

Who will think of the children?
4:27 a.m. ET

Sometimes progress comes at a steep cost. Sealed Air Corp., the company that invented Bubble Wrap and has sold it since 1960, is changing things up — and in the new version of its iconic product, iBubble Wrap, you won't be able to pop the plastic capsules. Sealed Air is making the change because shipping the pre-inflated Bubble Wrap takes up a lot of space — yes, Bubble Wrap has to be shipped, too — and the new version is delivered in flat sheets that online retailer and other customers will inflate at their warehouses, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Sealed Air almost discontinued Bubble Wrap a few years ago, leaving the market to imitators, because the bulk of the packages made it too expensive to ship more than 150 miles. The new iBubble Wrap takes up 1/50th of the space before it is inflated. With the rise of e-commerce, protective packaging material is big business, The Journal reports, hitting $20 billion in global sales in 2013, $2 billion of that bubble packaging. iBubble Wrap may help Sealed Air recapture more of that market, but does nobody care about the kids? (Or the older Bubble Wrap fanatics?) You can see the new Bubble Wrap in action in the Wall Street Journal video below. Peter Weber

The Daily Showdown
3:36 a.m. ET

Chris Christie, the Republican governor of Jon Stewart's home state of New Jersey, jumped in the already-very-crowded 2016 GOP presidential race Tuesday morning; Stewart got around to mocking him on Wednesday's Daily Show. In a recent survey, 65 percent of New Jersey residents said Christie would make a lousy president, he noted, but that's not the governor's biggest problem.

"Let's do some straight talk," Stewart said, laughing. "It's not that New Jerseyeans love you too much to let you go, it's that you've already finished second in the loud Northeastern egomaniac primary," with the winner being Donald Trump. "How far must Christie have fallen to be a two-term governor unfavorably compared to a perfume-selling escalateur" like Trump, he mused. But his No. 1 problem is that "he has crossed a red line for Republicans," Stewart said, committing "the unpardonable crime of treating Barack Obama like a person." Well, it's a theory. Peter Weber

Gay marriage
2:23 a.m. ET
Drew Anthony Smith/Getty Images

On Wednesday, the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals bowed to the inevitable and ordered federal courts in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas to quickly issue final rulings on same-sex marriage in their states, noting pointedly that the right to marry regardless of sexual orientation "is the law of the land and, consequently, the law of this circuit, and should not be taken lightly by actors within jurisdiction of this court."

In Texas, at least, a brief rebellion against Friday's Supreme Court's ruling, encouraged by state Attorney General Ken Paxton, was already coming to a close. As of Wednesday morning, according to Texas for Marriage, 80 percent of Texas counties were issuing same-sex marriage licenses, including Hood County, where county clerk Katie Lang had told her staff: "We are not issuing them because I am instilling my religious liberty in this office."

Bud Kennedy at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram obtained that eyebrow-raising communiqué through a freedom-of-information request, but in the process he uncovered a listserv used by all Texas county clerks, and most of them were baffled and angry at Texas officials for not preparing them or offering them guidance.

"We were the first people to be affected and the last ones to be contacted," Deborah Rushing, the clerk for Yoakum County, wrote to her colleagues. "No one had our back." Clerk Jennifer Fountain said that one local resident accused her of "taking Shelby County to the fires of hell" by issuing same-sex licenses, even though nobody complained about other marriage contracts, including those she had issued to "couples that I've had in court for beating each other up" and "people that have lived together for 20 years." Paxton, she added, "hung us all out to dry, threw us under the bus."

Red River County's Shawn Weemes spoke for a lot of fellow clerks: "I [am] so not looking forward to Monday." You can read more about how Texas county clerks dealt with same-sex marriage at the Star-Telegram. Peter Weber

allllrighty then
2:21 a.m. ET

Either Jim Carrey is preparing for the role of a lifetime as an unhinged Twitter user, or the actor knowingly had an online meltdown where he called California's governor a "corporate fascist" and posted several photos of children crying over a new, strict vaccination law.

After Gov. Jerry Brown (D) on Tuesday signed into law a bill that requires all public school children to be vaccinated beginning in 2016, Carrey went on a Twitter rampage, writing that Brown "says yes to poisoning more children with mercury and aluminum in mandatory vaccines. This corporate fascist must be stopped." Later, he added, "They say mercury in fish is dangerous but forcing all of our children to be injected with mercury in thimerosol is no risk. Make sense?" Then, he clarified, "I am not anti-vaccine. I am anti-thimerosal, anti-mercury. They have taken some of the mercury laden thimerosal out of vaccines. NOT ALL!"

Carrey then turned on the CDC, saying they "can't solve a problem they helped start. It's too risky to admit they have been wrong about mercury/thimerasol. They are corrupt." After tweeting several times that he's "PRO-VACCINE/ANTI-NEUROTOXIN," Carrey started adding photos of freaked out looking children to his messages. He finally went silent on the matter Wednesday morning, but not before he was bombarded with pro-vaccination tweets and news articles about how he was descending into madness. It's not too surprising that Carrey has these views — his ex-girlfriend Jenny McCarthy is famous for speaking out against vaccinations. What is surprising is that he thought people were actually waiting for him to weigh in on the matter. Catherine Garcia

dang flipper
1:47 a.m. ET

It was a Father's Day the Frickman family will never forget, thanks to a dolphin that jumped into their boat and broke both of Mrs. Frickman’s ankles.

It was "absolutely crazy," Dirk Frickman told the Orange County Register. One minute, his family was headed back to Dana Point Harbor with several dolphins peacefully swimming next to them — the next, one of the dolphins leaped up and landed hard inside the boat, knocking over Frickman's wife, Chrissie, and hitting his daughter, Courtney. It started to flop around on Chrissie's legs, causing her to scream in agony. "I had this 350-pound dolphin in my boat," Frickman said. "There was no way to get it off the boat."

It looked like a scene out of a horror film, Frickman said, with blood gushing out of cuts on the frightened dolphin's tail and nose. He quickly called Harbor Patrol, and when an officer met them at the dock, Frickman said, "he looked at the boat and said, 'Oh, my God. I've never seen this before.'" Chrissie and Courtney were taken away by ambulance, and finally, after splashing water on the dolphin to keep it alive, Frickman and the officer were able to use a rope to get the dolphin into the ocean. "The dolphin was hopefully saved," he said. "It swam away with no problem."

Chrissie wasn't as lucky; she spent five hours in the emergency room with two broken ankles. Her husband has been staying home to take care of her, and when he shares what happened with his business clients, no one believes him — which he completely understands. "It's totally bizarre," he said. Catherine Garcia

antiquities
12:59 a.m. ET

A bronze statue dating back to the 11th or 12th century has been recovered by U.S. Customs officials, after it was looted from a temple in India.

An anonymous collector voluntarily handed the two-and-a-half-foot idol over to authorities, the New York office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement said on Wednesday. This person purchased the statue in 2006, and received forged papers. The idol is part of a three-year investigation into an art dealer named Subhash Kapoor, who is awaiting trial in India on looting charges, The Associated Press reports.

ICE says the statue was taken from a temple in Tamil Nadu, and will be returned to India. If it could be sold on the market, it would go for as much as $1 million. Catherine Garcia

End of an Era
12:07 a.m. ET

After more than 40 years, a beloved fixture is saying goodbye to Sesame Street.

Sonia Manzano, who has played Maria since 1971, is retiring, she announced at the American Library Association's annual conference. Audiences know her as the owner of the Fix-It Shop along with her Sesame Street husband, Luis, but she has also won 15 Emmys for her work as a writer for the show. Her memoir, Becoming Maria: Love and Chaos in the South Bronx, will be released soon, likely chock full of juicy tidbits about her time with Elmo, Cookie Monster, and Big Bird.

Sesame Street has not confirmed the news, but Manzano is responding to fans on Twitter asking about the departure, Variety reports. Catherine Garcia

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