Until Congress banned the practice four years ago, the U.S. military used burn pits to dispose of military waste. Activists say these burn pits have led to early deaths, birth defects, and the environmental poisoning of Iraq. On Wednesday, members of the group Right to Heal gathered in Washington to ask for help for thousands of people they say are suffering ill effects caused by the dark smoke from burning paint, rubber tires, munitions, chemicals, plastics, and metals.
The health problems have reportedly hit both Iraqis and members of the U.S. military. Kristi Casteel's son, Joshua, died from lung cancer in 2012 at the age of 32. While serving as an interrogator in Iraq for the Army, he lived roughly 100 yards from a burn pit, Casteel told a Right to Heal meeting. "While very aware of the thick black clouds that covered the base every day, and experiencing symptoms of congestion, burning eyes, and nausea at times," she said, "he, like most all the other soldiers, just labeled their symptoms the 'Iraqi crud.'"
A 2011 report from the Institute of Medicine determined there wasn't enough data to conclude whether or not pollution from the pits could cause long-term health problems, but acknowledged that chemicals found at the Joint Base Balad pit could eventually cause respiratory, heart, kidney, and liver problems, plus anemia and cancer. Right to Heal wants the U.S. to pay reparations to civilians who lived near the pits, and to help with environmental cleanup efforts. Catherine Garcia
Conservative provocateur Ann Coulter agreed to participate in actor Rob Lowe's Comedy Central roast Saturday night to promote her new book (a campaign tract entitled, In Trump We Trust: E Pluribus Awesome!). That was a bad call.
Though the other celebrity roasters took plenty of shots at Lowe himself, Coulter was the butt of many of the evening's harshest jokes. Here are a few of the milder ones:
Pete Davidson: "If you are here, Ann, who is scaring the crows away from our crops?"
Peyton Manning: "I’m not the only athlete up here. As you know, earlier this year, Ann Coulter won the Kentucky Derby."
Nikki Glaser: "The only person you will ever make happy is the Mexican who digs your grave."
Jewel: "I do want to say as a feminist that I can’t support everything that’s been said tonight. But as someone who hates Ann Coulter, I’m delighted." [All via Variety]
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus on Sunday declined to attempt explaining where his party's nominee stands on immigration. Asked by NBC's Chuck Todd whether Donald Trump is undergoing something of an evolution on the topic, Priebus deferred, promising that Trump himself would "be giving prepared remarks on this issue" sometime soon.
"I don't speak for Donald Trump," Priebus continued. "Here’s what I know: [Trump's] position is going to be tough. His position is going to be fair, but his position is going to be humane." As Todd pressed for more details, Priebus seemed unsure as to whether Trump would really attempt to deport 11 million undocumented immigrants — though he was willing to state with certainty that Trump would work to build a border wall (which, for the record, already mostly exists).
While Trump has long made strict border security a central issue of his campaign, this week he said "there could certainly be a softening because we're not looking to hurt people." Trump then reversed himself one day later, suggesting he is instead engaged in a "hardening" of his immigration views. When these pivots led to confusion and accusations of flip-flopping, Trump blamed the media for "miss[ing] the whole point" and taking his words out of context. Bonnie Kristian
Acting DNC chair says she doesn't 'see what the smoke is' about Clinton Foundation corruption allegations
Acting Democratic National Committee Chair Donna Brazile said Sunday she doesn't see cause for concern in emails showing Clinton Foundation staff coordinating State Department access for their donors during Hillary Clinton's tenure as secretary of state.
"The way I look at it, I've been a government official," Brazile said in an interview on ABC's This Week. "So, you know, this notion that, somehow or another, someone who is a supporter, someone who is a donor, somebody who's an activist, saying 'I want access, I want to come into a room and I want to meet people' — we often criminalize behavior that is normal. I don’t see what the smoke is."
Brazile may have been referencing remarks from Clinton herself earlier this week, when the candidate told Anderson Cooper "there's a lot of smoke, and there's no fire" where accusations of a corrupt, pay-to-play relationship between the Clinton Foundation and State are concerned. Watch Brazile's comments below. Bonnie Kristian
— This Week (@ThisWeekABC) August 28, 2016
At least 16 people were killed by a bombing in Syria — while attending a funeral for bombing victims
A pair of barrel bombs killed at least 16 people in Aleppo, Syria, on Saturday as they attended a funeral for children killed by a previous bombing in the same neighborhood earlier this week. Another estimate puts the death toll as high as 24, with dozens more injured.
The bombs were dropped by a helicopter, observers said, and hit the rebel-controlled area of Bab al-Nayrab. Barrel bombs are repurposed oil drums filled with scraps and explosives, and they are criticized by human rights advocates for their indiscriminate killing, especially in residential contexts. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has denied using such devices, but the activist group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says regime helicopters have dropped more than 28,000 barrel bombs. Bonnie Kristian
In a turn of events that would be bizarre in any other election year, Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton are both attempting to create a link in voters' minds between their opponent and the Ku Klux Klan.
Clinton brought up the KKK in her speech on Thursday, in which she accused Trump of handing a "national megaphone" to the "paranoid fringe in our politics." The same day, her campaign released an online ad in which self-proclaimed Klan members and white supremacists explained their enthusiasm for Trump. And on Friday, Clinton's running mate, Sen. Tim Kaine, reiterated the connection by declaring, "Ku Klux Klan values, David Duke values, Donald Trump values are not American values."
Trump wasted no time returning the accusation. On Saturday, he retweeted a post from Lynette Hardaway and Rochelle Richardson, two African-American sisters who support his campaign, referencing Clinton's ties to the late Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W. Va.). Byrd was a member of the KKK in the 1940s and filibustered the Civil Rights Act of 1964, though for the bulk of his political career he vehemently repudiated his past Klan involvement. When he died in 2010, Clinton mourned Byrd as "a true American original, my friend and mentor."
Hardaway and Richardson told CNN they called attention to Byrd's history because "Donald J. Trump can't help who embraces his campaign but Hillary Clinton could've helped who she embraced." CNN reports neither campaign offered comment. Bonnie Kristian
After more than half a century of conflict, the government of Colombia and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) will announce a ceasefire Sunday to take effect at midnight local time. The two sides signed a historic peace agreement after negotiations in Havana, Cuba, on Wednesday, an accord Colombian voters will be able to approve or reject in an October referendum.
Colombians reacted to the news of peace with a mixture of hope and skepticism. "It is the opportunity to end a cycle of this terrible violence," said musician Julio Correal, who has worked on a state-led project to promote a cessation of hostilities. "It will not be easy — it has never been easy — but it is easier than a war scenario."
Supported by Turkish airstrikes, Syrian rebels seized territory from Kurdish-led fighters in northern Syria on Sunday. The attacks killed at least 35 people, most of them civilians in the villages that changed hands.
This offensive is part of a new escalation of Turkish involvement in neighboring Syria's conflict, intervention which includes fighting both the Islamic State and the Kurds. This weekend's airstrikes were the first time Turkish forces have targeted Kurdish militias in Syria, though Turkey's government has fought a Kurdish insurgency within its own borders for some time.
This dual opposition complicates matters for the United States, as Turkey is a NATO ally helping in the war on ISIS, and some anti-ISIS Syrian rebels are backed by the CIA — but the Kurdish forces Turkey is killing also oppose ISIS and are funded, armed, and trained by the Pentagon. Bonnie Kristian