Hilal Assad, a cousin of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, has been killed by rebels, according to the official Syrian Arab News Agency. The Islamic Front, an umbrella group made up of seven Islamist factions, claimed responsibility for his killing, which took place near the Turkish border crossing of Kasab. Hilal Assad was the leader of the pro-Assad paramilitary National Defense Forces in the Latakia province. Catherine Garcia
Boko Haram extremists disrupted a peaceful night of prayer on Wednesday when they gunned down nearly 100 Muslims in mosques in the northeastern Nigerian town of Kukawa. A government official and a self-defense fighter reported that 97 people, most of whom were men, were killed in the Wednesday night incident as they prayed ahead of breaking fast for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
While it remains unclear exactly how many mosques were attacked, a senior government official told The Associated Press that the attacks affected several of the town's mosques. Spokesmen are also reporting that the militants broke into homes, killing women and children. Boko Haram attacks on mosques are unfortunately not all that uncommon, as the extremist group considers mosque-goers to be too moderate. Becca Stanek
Today's presidential bid announcement comes from former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb, who's decided to try his luck against Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and Martin O'Malley in seeking the Democratic nomination for president.
"Our country needs a fresh approach to solving the problems that confront us and too often unnecessarily divide us," Webb wrote in the full announcement on his website. A Vietnam veteran who also served as navy secretary under President Reagan, Webb's views can be unpredictable. After the allegedly racially motivated shooting at a historically black church in Charleston, for example, he defended the Confederate flag, instructing his followers on Facebook that they ought to "remember that honorable Americans fought on both sides of the Civil War."
Webb does, however, offer the most progressive stance on drug policies among his peers, having hinted at radical drug reforms when he spoke at the National Sheriffs' Association Conference in Baltimore on Tuesday. Jeva Lange
A 24-year-old woman in Belgium who suffers from depression has been granted the right to end her own life, The Independent reports. The woman — whose name is only given as "Laura" in her extensive interview with a Belgian newspaper — has suffered from depression since she was a child, and was committed to a psychiatric facility at 21.
"Death feels to me not as a choice. If I had a choice, I would choose a bearable life, but I have done everything and that was unsuccessful," Laura told De Morgen.
Belgium legalized euthanasia in 2002; assisted suicides have since spiked to over 1,800 a year. In 2013, Belgium agreed that terminally ill children, too, have a right to die.
In the U.S., "Death with Dignity" laws only exist fully in three states — Washington, Oregon, and Vermont — and the laws are strictly limited to cases in which the individual has a terminal illness. Jeva Lange
Fox Searchlight Pictures Inc. and The Hearst Corporation may have just gotten off the hook for not paying their interns. A lower court previously ruled that the companies had broken the law by not paying interns, but a U.S. appeals court in Manhattan backpedaled on that decision on Thursday, saying that as long as interns gained knowledge in a particular career field in an internship, payment is not necessary. "The purpose of a bona‐fide internship is to integrate classroom learning with practical skill development in a real-world setting," Circuit Judge John Walker wrote.
Though the ruling offers some clarification as to what constitutes appropriate intern work and what does not, the cases will now be sent back to U.S. judges in Manhattan, who will decide if the Fox and Hearst internships were primarily educational. Becca Stanek
Another Fourth of July, another hot-dog eating contest. America's beloved — if utterly vomit-worthy — tradition of devouring frankfurters for sport will happen again this Saturday, with eight-year reigning champion Joey Chestnut making a bid for a ninth victory. Last year, Chestnut ate 61 hot dogs in order to be crowned winner, and he holds the record for the most dogs eaten, too: In 2013, he housed a whopping 69.
For those who are morbidly curious, Time has done the dirty work and drawn up a graph of all 1,377 wieners ever eaten by Nathan's Famous hot dog champs since the Coney Island stand started keeping official records in 1972. And ah, how times have changed — Jason Schechter, the 1972 winner, only ate a mere 14 dogs.
Although the Colombian government agreed to jump on board with the U.S.-backed efforts to curb cocaine production, Colombian cocaine production more than doubled last year, jumping by as much as 53 percent, a United Nations annual survey reports. Cultivation of the coca leaf, which is used to make cocaine, also increased drastically, now taking up about 266 square miles in the country — a chunk of land that The Associated Press estimates to be about 12 times the size of Manhattan. These increases in production are the largest seen in almost a decade.
Colombia is one of the world's three main cocaine-producing countries, along with Bolivia and Peru. The latest findings revealed in the UN report will likely force Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos to step up efforts to curb the production of cocaine to keep his promise of participation in the U.S.-led war on drugs. Becca Stanek
Following in the footsteps of big businesses such as Walmart and Amazon, NASCAR and its racetracks took a stand against the Confederate flag on Thursday in light of the allegedly racially motivated June shootings at a historically black church in South Carolina, releasing a statement asking fans to refrain from bringing the flag to races, NBC Sports reports.
"We are asking our fans to join us in a renewed effort to create an all-inclusive, even more welcoming atmosphere for all who attend our events," the statement reads. "This is an opportunity for NASCAR Nation to demonstrate its sense of mutual respect and acceptance."
On Wednesday, NBC Sports reports, the Daytona International Speedway announced that it will offer a "flag exchange" at this weekend's NASCAR races — fans can bring their Confederate flags and swap them for an American flag to wave at the track instead. NASCAR noted that fans who do choose to still bring Confederate flags to events will not be banned from races. Sarah Eberspacher