March 27, 2014
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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.

2:58 a.m. ET

When Iraq launched its third attempt to retake Tirkit from Islamic State on Monday, Iran was aiding it with drones, artillery and rockets, and Revolutionary Guard troops and commanders. Qasem Soleimani, the head of Iran's Quds Force militia, was on the ground near Tikrit, according to Iran's Fars news agency. The U.S. was watching from the sidelines.

"We are fully aware of the operation, but the Iraqis did not request our support for it," Pentagon spokesman Col. Steve Warren told The Wall Street Journal. "Our presence in Iraq is at the request of the Iraqi government." And Iraq didn't request American help, U.S. officials said, because Iran was supporting the 15,000 Iraq army troops, roughly 15,000 Shiite militia volunteers, and up to 2,000 Sunni tribal fighters. Tikrit, the home of Saddam Hussein, is largely Sunni, while Iran and Iraq's government is Shiite.

The U.S. and Iran are both working with Baghdad to defeat ISIS, but they aren't working together. Instead, a U.S. official tells The Journal, the U.S. supports Iraq's military in central Anbar province and the Kurdish regions in the north, while Iran assists mostly in areas to the east of Baghdad, where "geography naturally favors more Iranian influence." The BBC helpfully explains why Iraq's military needs the help, in this 45-second video. —Peter Weber

real estate
2:08 a.m. ET

Fans of The Walking Dead who have always wanted to own part of a town and happen to have $680,000 are in luck: Downtown Grantville, Georgia, featured on an episode during the show's third season, is up for sale on eBay.

The town's former mayor, Jim Sells, owns the historic property and is hoping to sell it to someone who has "a vision," he told BuzzFeed. He said he'd like to see it "active and thriving," and noted that fans of The Walking Dead flock to the town on tours. The property boasts nine buildings with apartments, restaurants, office space, a pharmacy, and retail space, and is located 40 miles away from Atlanta. Its moment in the spotlight isn't done yet, either — three movies, including a sequel to The Ring, will soon be filmed in the area. —Catherine Garcia

safety first
1:43 a.m. ET

Police stations across the United States are now doubling as safe havens for Craigslist buyers and sellers.

In Naperville, Illinois, police Cmdr. Ken Parcel said Monday that allowing Craigslist users to buy and sell in the station lobby is "a preventative measure to ensure there's a safe place to allow [buyers and sellers] to conduct their normal lives and businesses." He stressed that officers and staff are not assisting with transactions. Chicago does not have official safety zones, but the city's police department did say in a statement it urged people who are buying and selling to meet in well-lit public places and bring along a friend or relative.

In Indiana, a number of violent crimes linked to Craigslist made the town manager of Whitestown spring to action. Dax Morton told the Chicago Tribune the violence was the "straw that broke the camel's back," and that residents in his town can now use the municipal complex for transactions and can ask for police supervision. "My wife uses Craigslist a lot," he said. "I think it's a great idea."

welcome to 2016
1:26 a.m. ET
Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

During her four years as secretary of state, Hillary Clinton didn't have a government email account and used only her private account, in possible violation of the Federal Records Act, The New York Times reported Monday night. Just two months ago, Clinton advisers reviewed tens out thousands of pages of Clinton's emails from that period and turned 55,000 pages over to the State Department for archiving.

This blockbuster report didn't escape the notice of former Gov. Jeb Bush (R), who made public 250,000 emails from his eight years as governor back in December, before an anticipated 2016 presidential run:

"Hillary Clinton should release her emails," Bush spokeswoman Kristy Campbell told the Tampa Bay Times. "Gov. Bush believes transparency is a critical part of public service and of governing." And she, too, pointed to But "the Bush files, though enormous, are not complete," noted the Miami Herald's Mary Ellen Klas in January:

The former governor conducted all his communication on his private account and turned over the hand-selected batch to the state archives when he left office. Absent from the stash are emails the governor deemed not relevant to the public record: those relating to politics, fundraising, and personal matters while he was governor. [Tampa Bay Times]

In case you weren't counting, the Iowa caucuses are in 11 short months.

stoner logic
1:03 a.m. ET
Sean Gallup/Getty Images

File this under "not smart": A Nebraska man was cited for possession of less than an ounce of marijuana after deputies found a sour cream container marked "Not Weed" in his car that was actually filled with the stuff.

The 21-year-old Lincoln man was stopped on Saturday night, and despite his best efforts, Lancaster County Sheriff's deputies weren't fooled by his fake label and opened up the container to discover 11.4 grams of marijuana, the Lincoln Journal Star reports. The man admitted it was his, and was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol. Points for at least trying to pull a fast one?

12:25 a.m. ET
David McNew/Getty Images

On Monday, United Airlines announced it will stop accepting bulk shipments of rechargeable batteries amid safety concerns.

The batteries are often shipped by the tens of thousands in one cargo container on a plane, and tests by the Federal Aviation Administration over the past year have shown that just one battery overheating can transfer to others, causing a chain reaction of batteries releasing explosive gases. Several tests have ended with fiery explosions, The Associated Press reports.

Delta Air Lines stopped accepting bulk shipments on Feb. 1, but both Delta and United will still allow bulk shipments on board if the batteries are inside of something else, like a laptop, as the belief is that gives the battery a buffer. In a statement, United said, "Our primary concerns when transporting dangerous goods are the safety of our customers, our customers' shipments, and the environment."

Watch this
12:08 a.m. ET

If you have a favorite duet from the last 50 years, there's a good chance Jimmy Fallon and Kelly Clarkson perform it in their "history of duets" on Monday night's Tonight Show. Everyone from Human League to Sonny and Cher get sing-outs, plus some musical collaborations you might have forgotten about (yes, we're talking about you, Paula Abdul and MC Skat Kat). And finally, we learn a vocal impression Fallon can't do: His Aaron Neville is terrible. Otherwise, grab a seat and enjoy the show. It's a good one. —Peter Weber

won't someone think about the bunnies?
March 2, 2015

If Utah passes a medical marijuana bill, a DEA agent warns, more than just the patients might get stoned.

During testimony to a Utah Senate panel last week, DEA special agent Matt Fairbanks said that wildlife could "cultivate a taste" for the plant, The Washington Post reports. "I deal in facts," said Fairbanks, a member of the DEA marijuana eradication team in the state, talking about his experience with pot growing on public lands. "I deal in science. Personally, I have seen entire mountainsides subjected to pesticides, harmful chemicals, deforestation, and erosion. The ramifications to the flora, the animal life, the contaminated water, are still unknown."

Fairbanks said he witnessed at some illegal marijuana grow sites rabbits who became dependent on marijuana and "refused to leave us... his natural instincts to run were somehow gone." As the Post points out, if it becomes legal, the plant won't be growing out in the wild, so bunnies would be able to frolic through the forest drug-free. The panel approved the bill, and it will be debated in the full Senate this week.

This just in
March 2, 2015
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

During her four years as secretary of state, Hillary Clinton used her personal email account exclusively and did not have a government email address, The New York Times reports.

This may have violated the Federal Records Act, which requires that personal emails be preserved on department servers; letters and email written by federal officials are supposed to be retained and filed so congressional committees, media outlets, and historians can easily find them, with some exceptions for classified and sensitive material. To comply with new federal record-keeping practices, Clinton's advisers gave 55,000 pages of emails to the State Department two months ago, and a spokesman said she is adhering to the "letter and spirit of the rules."

Jason R. Baron, a lawyer at Drinker Biddle and Reath and former director of litigation at the National Archives and Records Administration, said there really wasn't a reason why Clinton should have been using just her personal email address throughout her tenure. "It is very difficult to conceive of a scenario — short of nuclear winter — where an agency would be justified in allowing its cabinet-level-head officer to solely use a private email communications channel for the conduct of government business," he said.

March 2, 2015
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Now that Costco's deal with American Express is over, Citigroup Inc. will start issuing the company's credit cards and Visa Inc. will be the credit-card network beginning in 2016.

For the last 15 years, American Express was the only card accepted at Costco, and the partnership, which ended last month, represented 8 percent, or $80 billion, of the credit card company's billed business and 20 percent, or $14 billion, of its interest-bearing credit portfolio, the Los Angeles Times reports.

On April 1, 2016, transactions will be processed by Visa and Citi will be the exclusive issuer of co-branded credit cards, with the company also accepting debit cards, cash, and other Visa cards as forms of payment. The company said in a statement that the deal is still subject to the purchase of Costco's existing co-branded credit card portfolio by Citi, but they expect it to be sold.

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