Crisis in Iraq
August 7, 2014

CNN reports that the U.S. has begun an airdrop mission in northern Iraq to assist about 40,000 refugees stranded on a mountain without food or water. The refugees are largely of the Yazidi sect, and they fled the nearby town of Sinjar after the extremist group the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria moved in.

The Obama administration is reportedly considering launching air strikes to beat back ISIS. Indeed, The New York Times reported this evening that the U.S. strikes had already begun, citing officials from the autonomous region of Kurdistan, but the Pentagon swiftly denied the claim. Ryu Spaeth

Ukraine Crisis
6:52 a.m. ET

On Wednesday, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that Russia is still arming pro-Moscow separatists in Eastern Ukraine, despite a cease-fire agreement, and had has its own forces in the country, too. "Russia is present in eastern Ukraine," he told The New York Times, citing "our own intelligence" as well as "open sources." Reuters reports that Russia appears to be preparing to send in a lot more troops and heavy arms, including tanks, missile launchers, and artillery.

Reuters is basing its report on visual confirmation from one its reporters, who observed four trains loaded with Russian troops and armaments arriving in southern Russia's Rostov region, then traveling on to the Kuzminsky firing range, 30 miles from the Ukraine border, which has been transformed into a makeshift military base. Most of the troops were wearing no insignia, and the plates and other identifying marks were removed from the tanks, Reuters reports, adding that an advocate for the families of Russian troops says the base is being used as a staging ground for troops headed to Ukraine.

Such camps have been sprouting up along the Ukraine border, something "anyone with access to Google Earth or Google Maps" can see, according to a report released Thursday by the Atlantic Council. The report, "Hiding in Plain Sight: Putin's War in Ukraine," uses social media, satellite images, and other open sources of data to prove Russia's meddling inside Ukraine. A Western official told The New York Times that Russia has moved about nine battalions close to Ukraine's border, and five more could be coming, meaning more than 10,000 Russian troops could be in Ukraine within weeks. Peter Weber

This is terrible
4:22 a.m. ET
Drew Anthony Smith/Getty Images

Jonathan McComb, 36, and his family traveled from Corpus Christi, Texas, to scenic Wimberley to spend Memorial Day with friends at a house on the Blanco River. McComb is now in a San Antonio hospital, after a flash flood washed away that house Sunday night, but he has recovered enough to tell about the disaster that left his wife, two young children, and five family friends missing or, in the case of Michelle Charba, the 43-year-old daughter of the home's owners, confirmed dead.

The group knew a storm was coming, and moved their cars to higher ground to avoid water damage, but assumed they were safe because the house was on stilts, or pylons, McComb's father, Joe McComb, told the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday. About 20 minutes later, "they got a flashlight and looked out, and all of a sudden the water was up to the top of the pylons, and they realized they were trapped," he said. "They knew they were in trouble."

The house held fast under the deluge for a while, and everyone was "in the room there holding on to pieces of furniture," hoping to outlast the flood, McComb said. "All of a sudden a big thud came. I don't know if it was a big tree got uprooted and floated down the river, but it hit the pylons, the stilts, and the house was displaced."

With the house floating downriver, Jonathan McComb's wife, Laura, got in a call to her sister in Austin, telling her family that she loves them, Joe McComb said, then "the house hit the bridge and it took the top part of the house off.... The house started just coming apart, washing people in all different directions. That's the last he saw anybody." Jonathan isn't the only known survivor — the family dog, Maggie, was found in a tree on Monday. You can read more details at the Los Angeles Times. Peter Weber

The Daily Showdown
4:01 a.m. ET

Early Wednesday, Swiss police quietly swooped in and arrested half a dozen high-ranking FIFA officials to face U.S. corruption charges. Jon Stewart had a number of ways of putting that in perspective, especially for a U.S. audience that doesn't religiously follow soccer. "FIFA is so bad, they got arrested by the Swiss," he began on Wednesday's Daily Show, "a country whose official policy on Nazi gold was, and I quote, 'We'll allow it.'"

Stewart walked through the charges — "please don't say their balls were under inflated" — and marveled at the 24-year scope of the alleged bribery and racketeering. "To put that in perspective, this FIFA corruption started Jennifer Lawrence ago. What took so long?" To illustrate the scope of the U.S. investigation, Stewart performed a brief one-man play, "FIFA: A 24 Year Sting Operation," replete with period details.

And then he brought it back to safe Daily Show territory: "What would have happened to these FIFA scoundrels if they were bankers?" The answer: A slap on the wrist, probably. But the U.S. has an open investigation on the bankers who facilitated the FIFA corruption, Stewart noted wryly. "With the Justice Department on the case, we might actually see some people going to jail — in 24 years." —Peter Weber

ISIS
2:15 a.m. ET
John Moore/Getty Images

New research suggests that many young women who leave home to join Islamic State in Syria do so because they are looking for sisterhood.

While some do hope to become so-called "jihadi brides," others go because they believe Muslims are being persecuted and they feel isolated in secular Western society, according to a report released Thursday by the Institute for Strategic Dialogue and the International Center for the Study of Radicalization at King's College London. It's actually hazardous to believe that the girls are all being brainwashed or groomed by ISIS, say authors Erin Saltman and Melanie Smith. "They're not being taken seriously," Smith told The Associated Press. "It's inherently dangerous to label people with the same brush."

About 550 young women, some as young as 13, have gone to live in ISIS-controlled territory. Researchers followed the social media accounts of more than 100 of these girls, and found that many viewed themselves as pilgrims, with some wishing they were allowed to fight alongside men on the battlefield. While most of their posts were positive — photos with new 'sisters' and images from weddings — some did warn young women looking to join ISIS that they should expect poor health care, little water and electricity, and brutal weather. "These anecdotes serve to disprove the idea of the well-integrated, utopian society that is so strongly emphasized by ISIS propaganda," the researchers said. Catherine Garcia

that's a good boy
1:42 a.m. ET

Authorities in Mississippi say Lucas, a black Belgian Malinois police dog, likely saved the life of Deputy Todd Frazier after he was ambushed by three suspects on Monday.

Sheriff Ricky Adam of the Hancock County Sheriff's Department said that while driving on a remote stretch of Highway 90 in Pearlington, Frazier saw a car at a deserted rest stop. He decided to pull over to check on the driver, and after he got out of his vehicle "two individuals surprised Deputy Frazier from the shadows and an altercation ensued," Adam told ABC News. "One cut him across the forehead with a razor, one choked him, and one grabbed his legs to carry him to the edge of the woods."

Frazier was able to hit a button that released Lucas from the car, and he bit the attackers, even remaining attached to the leg of one as they tried to drive away. Lucas chipped a few teeth and has a bruised shoulder, while Frazier has a gash on his forehead, but both are recovering. "Deputy Frazier is a good deputy and takes his job seriously," Adam said. "He is also an excellent dog handler — he trained Lucas himself." The suspects are still at large, and authorities say they don't have a motive for the attack. Catherine Garcia

Quotables
1:38 a.m. ET

Actor and woodcraft enthusiast Nick Offerman has a book out with profiles of people he admires, and he sat down with Time to discuss what its title, Gumption, means to him. Gumption is a quality that connects a diverse group including Conan O'Brien, Willie Nelson, and Yoko Ono, he explained, and "it involves spunk and courage and stamina and character and integrity." And if openly expressing your admiration for Yoko Ono isn't brave enough, Offerman broached the subject of feminism:

Feminism is an important quality, I think, in society, and something that needs to be talked about until we can legitimately complain — until the guys are, like, "Hey, hang on, you're making more money than us." That's when we can stop talking about feminism. We are slowly evolving. [Offerman]

Ono and Eleanor Roosevelt worked tirelessly to promote the idea that we can get along rather than fight, facing down "boys around a table, like, wanting to throw spears at each other," Offerman said. And with his book he's "hoping to do my little bit toward helping us evolve toward a place where we stop shooting at each other." Watch the short interview below. —Peter Weber

someone call the hamburglar
1:02 a.m. ET
Twitter.com/McDonaldsUS

Could toasted buns be the trick to turning McDonald's around?


CEO Steve Easterbrook said during a conference on Wednesday that while the company will make organizational changes in an attempt to stop decreasing sales, "at a more fundamental level we are recommitting to hotter, tastier food across the menu." When it comes to burgers, McDonald's will soon alter "the way we sear and then grill our beef so the patties come off juicier," and buns will get toasted for five more seconds to bump the temperature up 15 degrees. "It's the little things that add up to a big difference for our customers," Easterbrook said.

McDonald’s isn't stopping there when it comes to bread, BuzzFeed reports. In Australia, they're testing a brioche bun, and in India, customers can request a focaccia bun made with olive oil, rosemary, and oregano. Catherine Garcia

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