This just in
July 16, 2014

An Israeli airstrike on Wednesday killed four children — all members of the same family — and wounded several others on a Gaza beach in front of a hotel packed with foreign journalists. The first shell hit around 4 p.m. local time, while a second strike hit survivors as they ran up the beach toward the safety of the hotel.

The Guardian's Peter Beaumont, who watched the strikes hit from the hotel terrace, called it a "personal low point" to have administered first aid, along with other journalists, to wounded children. He offered this deeply distressing account of the attack:

Pulling up the T-shirt of the first boy, who looks about eight years old, we find a shrapnel hole, small and round as a pencil head, where he has been hit in the chest over the second rib. Another boy, a brother or cousin, who is uninjured, slumps by the wall of the terrace, weeping by his side.

The boy cries in pain as we clean and dress the wound, wrapping a field dressing around his chest, pressing to staunch the bleeding. He winces in pain, and he is clearly embarrassed too as a colleague checks his shorts to look for unseen femoral bleeding. [The Guardian]

Nearly 200 Palestinians have died in the conflict so far, an estimated 80 percent of whom were civilians, according to the United Nations; Israel has suffered one casualty. Jon Terbush

What happens in Vegas...
1:11 a.m. ET
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

A spokesman for the Venetian hotel in Las Vegas said on Thursday that earlier in the week, two men jumped into an outdoor canal on the property and had to be rescued because they could not swim.

On Monday morning, two men were spotted on surveillance cameras jumping over the fence that surrounds the canal, Reuters reports. The hotel offers gondola rides in the area, which is based on the Grand Canal in Venice, but the gondolas were not in operation at the time. The men were rescued and taken to a local hospital in critical condition. Authorities did not give an update on their condition, and said they are not sure why the men jumped into the canal. Catherine Garcia

1:11 a.m. ET

Junaid Hussain, a 21-year-old British citizen, was one of Islamic State's secret weapons, a convicted hacker who fled to Syria in 2013 while awaiting trial in England, then took a leading role in ISIS's efforts to recruit members online, hack into U.S. military sites, and beef up the group's cybersecurity. He was killed Tuesday in a drone strike on his car outside Raqqa, Syria, U.S. officials told The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.

British and U.S. officials decided a few months ago that Hussain and other British nationals who had prominent roles in ISIS should be captured or killed. Using the online nom de guerre Abu Hussain al-Britaini, Hussein was linked to a thwarted plot to bomb a parade in London, encouraging the two gunmen who died shooting up a cartoon-drawing contest outside Dallas, and efforts to hack into military sites and the social media accounts of U.S. service members, publishing their personal information online to target them for attacks.

Hussein is also believed to have convinced ISIS leaders to stop communicating through non-secure networks, making it harder for Western intelligence to track and monitor them. He "was an irritant that had developed a worrying edge," Raffaello Pantucci of London's Royal United Services Institute told The New York Times. "Undoubtedly his online skills will be missed by the group... but it is unlikely to dramatically change the pattern of dangerous plots emanating from the group."

ISIS hasn't confirmed Hussein's death, but condolences started showing up Thursday on Twitter from ISIS supporters. Hussein was married to Sally Jones, 45, a former punk rocker whom he met online. Peter Weber

12:40 a.m. ET

Retired Lt. Gen. Frank E. Petersen Jr., the first black Marine Corps aviator and officer promoted to brigadier general, died Tuesday. He was 83.

Petersen was born March 2, 1932, in Topeka, Kansas. After serving two years in the Navy, Petersen was commissioned in the Marine Corps. He flew more than 350 combat missions and more than 4,000 military aircraft hours, and received the Purple Heart, Meritorious Service Medal, Distinguished Flying Cross, the Defense Superior Service Medal, and Navy Distinguished Service Medal.

Petersen's wife, Alicia, said that her husband didn't see himself as a trailblazer, but he did work toward equality in the Marine Corps. "He was a man who had very strong character, strong goals, and a lot of determination to achieve what he wanted to do," she told the Topeka Capital-Journal. "And very early on he decided that he wanted to be a pilot." In 1979, he was promoted to brigadier general, and in 2010, was appointed by President Obama to the Board of Visitors to the United States Naval Academy. Petersen is survived by his wife, five children, one grandson, and three great-grandchildren. In the video below, Petersen describes what it was like to be in the military during the 1950s, and the obstacles he faced. Catherine Garcia

fighting the drought
August 27, 2015
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

In July, California cut its water use by 31.3 percent, exceeding a goal of 25 percent set by Gov. Jerry Brown (D) in April.

Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, and San Francisco were among the cities that saved the most, and Beverly Hills was at the bottom of the list. "San Francisco is achieving 17 percent of cumulative savings, and that's a real success story," said Max Gomberg, climate and conservation manager at the State Water Board Office of Research, Planning, and Performance. He told Al Jazeera other cities should take a look at its "edgy, some might even call R-rated" public awareness campaign, with slogans that include "Nozzle Your Hose: Limit outdoor watering" and "Gardens Gone Wild: Use native, water-efficient plants."

Education about the drought is one factor in the push to conserve water, and peer pressure is another. When people see their neighbors letting their lawns go brown, it shows that they are "taking action," says Jon Christensen of the UCLA Institute of Environment and Sustainability. "It really makes a difference." Catherine Garcia

fight against ISIS
August 27, 2015
Patrick Baz/AFP/Getty Images

The United States has asked Uzbekistan to join the coalition against Islamic State, a U.S. official said Thursday.

Daniel Rosenblum, U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state for Central Asia, told reporters the country can choose how it would like to contribute to the fight against ISIS, Reuters reports. The coalition's mission has a military component and five or six other "lines of effort," Rosenblum said.

Uzbekistan is home to 31 million people, mostly Muslims. The country has been a NATO partner and assisted in the fight against the Taliban in Afghanistan. Uzbekistan's president, Islam Karimov, has been criticized by Western governments and human rights organizations for suppressing dissent, but officials say they have to take a tough stance in order to keep militants like ISIS at bay. Catherine Garcia

Mars or Bust
August 27, 2015
Kevin Winter/Getty Images

If Buzz Aldrin has his way, Mars will be colonized by 2039.

The second man to walk on the moon has partnered with the Florida Institute of Technology to open the Buzz Aldrin Space Institute this fall. Aldrin, who has a doctorate in science from MIT, will serve as a senior faculty adviser and research professor of aeronautics, The Associated Press reports. Aldrin, 85, said he wants to develop a "master plan" to get Mars colonized, with international input and approval from NASA. NASA is working on building rockets and spacecrafts to transport astronauts to Mars by the mid-2030s.

Aldrin set 2039 as a target date because that will be the 70th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. He's already thinking that two of the moons of Mars, Phobos and Deimos, will be the first stops for astronauts, and he thinks it makes sense for people to live there for 10 years. "The Pilgrims on the Mayflower came here to live and stay," he said. "They didn't wait around Plymouth Rock for the return trip, and neither will people building up a population and a settlement [on Mars]." Catherine Garcia

29th time's a charm?
August 27, 2015

After 28 unsuccessful bids for freedom, Manson Family member Bruce Davis was found eligible for parole on Thursday, California state corrections officials said.

The 72-year-old was convicted in 1972 for the murders of aspiring musician Gary Hinman and Donald "Shorty" Shea, a stuntman who worked at a ranch where Charles Manson and his followers once lived. Hinman's body was found at Davis' home, alongside the words "political piggy" written in blood on the wall, the Los Angeles Times reports. Davis said he had nothing to do with the Manson Family's infamous 1969 murders of Sharon Tate and Leno and Rosemary LaBianca.

The finding is now under a 120-day review, and Gov. Jerry Brown (D) could block Davis' release. He has been found eligible for parole previously, but all motions were reversed by the governors at the time, with Brown saying in 2014 that Davis is "still dodging responsibility" for his role in the murders. During his 40 years in prison, Davis has earned his doctoral degree in religion, married, and fathered a child. Catherine Garcia

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