United Nations war crimes investigators report American-led air strikes are causing 'staggering' civilian deaths in Syria
War crimes investigators for the United Nations said Wednesday that the U.S.-backed air strikes on Raqqa, Syria, are causing a "staggering loss of civilian life," Reuters reports.
The offensive aims to liberate Raqqa from the Islamic State's hold, although the chairman of the U.N. Commission of Inquiry, Paolo Pinherio, said the effort cannot be "undertaken at the expense of civilians who unwillingly find themselves living in areas where [ISIS] is present." So far, an estimated 160,000 civilians have fled the city due to the turmoil, while between 50,000 and 100,000 people remain trapped there, the BBC reports.
Ed Whelan, president of the conservative Ethics and Public Policy Center think tank and a friend of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, used photographs of a stranger's home, Google Maps, floor plans from Zillow, old yearbook pages, and Facebook posts from 2012 to bolster his theory that Kavanaugh did not sexually assault his accuser, Christine Blasey Ford.
Whelan, an adviser to Kavanaugh's confirmation effort, dumped all this on Twitter Thursday evening. Ford told The Washington Post the alleged assault took place in a Maryland house that was "not far from" the Columbia Country Club. She identified four people as being at the party, including Kavanaugh and his friend Mark Judge, but "none of the four lived in the vicinity of the Columbia Country Club," Whelan tweeted (Kavanaugh, for the record, lived 3.6 miles away at the time).
Whelan then produced a photo of a home "barely a half-mile" from the club, along with the house's floor plan. Whelan said the layout of the home "corresponds closely" to Ford's description of where the alleged incident took place, and then revealed the name of the person who lived there at the time, a classmate and friend of Kavanaugh's. Sherlock Whelan described this man as a "good friend" of Judge's and produced side-by-side photos of Kavanaugh and the man, noting that people "have commented on how much they resembled each other in appearance."
He finally concluded that when at a party, the host "would be the person least likely to act like a guest and most likely to use private areas of the house." Although inferring otherwise, Whelan said he does not know what happened at this party and is not insinuating that the man he publicly named and shared photos of did anything wrong, or that Ford is now "mistakenly remembering" this man as Kavanaugh.
Ford responded to the tweets late Thursday, saying she knew and "socialized" with the man and Kavanaugh. "There is zero chance I would confuse them," she told the Post. The Post said the man is now a middle school teacher, who, to no one's surprise, did not respond to requests for comment. A Senate Judiciary Committee staffer tweeted that the panel "had no knowledge or involvement" in Whelan's folly. Catherine Garcia
On Thursday night, lawyers for Christine Blasey Ford spoke to Senate Judiciary Committee staffers as they continue to try to come to an agreement on Ford testifying before the committee, Politico reports.
Ford has accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault when they were teenagers, and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) scheduled a hearing on the matter for Monday, inviting Ford and Kavanaugh to appear. Kavanaugh formally accepted the invitation on Thursday. Ford's attorneys had requested an FBI investigation before the hearing, and earlier on Thursday said their client is willing to testify, but not on Monday.
During Thursday night's call, they discussed possible scenarios for an appearance, two people familiar with the matter told Politico, including holding the hearing next Thursday. It was a "positive" phone call, one person told Politico, with Ford's lawyers also letting the staffers for Grassley and ranking Democrat Sen. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.) know that Ford wants Kavanaugh to testify at the hearing first; does not want to be questioned by outside counsel; would like just one camera in the room during the hearing; and would like witnesses to be called. A spokesperson for Grassley said he is now consulting with colleagues on how to move forward. Catherine Garcia
Colin Kaepernick will receive the W.E.B. Du Bois medal from Harvard, the university's highest honor in African and African American studies, this October.
Harvard's Hutchins Center for African and African American Studies announced this year's recipients of the award, given to people "in recognition of their contributions to African and African American culture and the life of the mind," on Thursday. A total of eight people are receiving the medal this year, including comedian Dave Chapelle and artist Kehinde Wiley, who painted former President Barack Obama's official portrait.
Previous winners of the medal, named in honor of the NAACP founder and first African American to earn a Harvard doctorate, include Maya Angelou and Muhammad Ali. Kaepernick started a national conversation in 2016 after he began kneeling during the national anthem ahead of football games. A free agent who is not playing on any team, he's now the face of the latest Nike campaign, appearing in ads with the words, "Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything." Catherine Garcia
Marion "Suge" Knight, the former rap mogul who founded Death Row Records in the 1990s, pleaded no contest on Thursday to a voluntary manslaughter charge.
Knight was accused of running over one man and hitting another with his truck in a Compton, California, parking lot in 2015. Terry Carter, 55, was killed, and Cle "Bone" Sloan sustained serious injuries. The incident took place near where the movie Straight Outta Compton was being filmed, and was caught on surveillance tape. Sloan was working security for the film set, and Knight claimed he was speeding away because Sloan had a gun.
Knight will be sentenced Oct. 4, and is expected to receive 28 years in prison, ABC Los Angeles reports. Under the plea deal, the judge will dismiss additional charges against Knight during his sentencing: making criminal threats and stealing a camera. Catherine Garcia
Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sent Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) a letter Thursday accepting his invitation to attend a hearing on Monday regarding a sexual assault accusation made against Kavanaugh.
"From the moment I first heard this allegation, I have categorically and unequivocally denied it," Kavanaugh wrote in the letter. "I remain committed to defending my integrity." He also said he wanted the hearing to take place as soon as possible so "that I can clear my name."
Christine Blasey Ford, a professor living in California, accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault when they were both teenagers. Grassley announced the hearing on Monday, before Ford and Kavanaugh agreed to attend, and Ford's lawyers have been negotiating with the committee on whether she will appear. Her lawyer said Thursday that it's "not possible" for Ford to testify in front of the panel on Monday, and "the committee's insistence that it occur then is arbitrary." That being said, if senators agree to "terms that are fair," Ford "would be prepared to testify next week." Ford had requested an FBI investigation before testifying. Catherine Garcia
At least 44 people were killed Thursday when a passenger ferry capsized in Lake Victoria, officials said.
There were hundreds of people on the ferry, with local media reporting it was overloaded and likely had between 400 and 500 passengers. Lake Victoria is the largest lake in Africa, surrounded by Tanzania, Uganda, and Kenya.
Officials said 37 people have been pulled from the water, but because of poor visibility, it's too hard to conduct a thorough search, and rescue efforts will resume in the morning. Catherine Garcia
California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) on Thursday signed a law that bans restaurant servers from automatically giving customers single-use plastic straws.
Straws will still be available upon request, and the law does not apply to fast food establishments. Brown said plastic trash is a major threat to marine life, and the California Coastal Commission has found that plastic straws and stirrers are among the most common pieces of trash found on state beaches. "Plastic has helped advance innovation in our society, but our infatuation with single-use convenience has led to disastrous consequences," Brown said in a statement. "Plastic, in all forms — straws, bottles, packaging, bags, etc. — are choking the planet."
Restaurants that do not abide by the law, which takes effect on Jan. 1, 2019, will get two warnings, and then a fine of $25 per day, up to $300 a year. California is the first state to enact such a law. Catherine Garcia