Investigators say Syrian and Russian authorities blocked them from site of suspected chemical attack
Syrian and Russian authorities have reportedly blocked a watchdog group from investigating a suspected chemical attack in Syria.
The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, an independent watchdog group, sought to visit the city of Douma, near Damascus, to investigate a recent attack, The Associated Press reports. The U.S. has accused Syrian President Bashar al-Assad of using chemical weapons against civilians in Douma earlier this month, killing around 40 people. Russia, a Syrian ally, has claimed that the event was staged, and both nations have denied the use of poison gas.
The OPCW tried to visit the site of the alleged attack to investigate, but local officials said that the team lacked proper permissions from the United Nations, AP reports. A U.N. spokesperson disputed that claim, telling AP that the OPCW group had been fully cleared by the U.N. to investigate in Douma.
Instead of allowing investigators to access Douma, Syrian authorities said that the OPCW team could interview a group of 22 witnesses. Officials in the U.S. are concerned that Russians may have tampered with evidence at the site, Reuters reports, a charge a Russian official denied Monday. The OPCW group planned to collect samples and document evidence, not assign blame for the incident.
The U.S. launched a series of strikes late Friday in response to the alleged chemical attack, targeting chemical weapons facilities and a research center. Russia and Syria reported that missiles were shot down and failed to cause major damage, but President Trump said the strikes were "perfectly executed." Read more at The Associated Press. Summer Meza
On Tuesday, comedian Bill Cosby was transported to a Pennsylvania state prison in handcuffs after Montgomery County Judge Steven O'Neill sentenced him to three to 10 years in jail for drugging and sexually assaulting former Temple University employee Andrea Constand in 2004. Cosby, 81 and legally blind, will also be classified as a "sexually violent predator" on a sex-offender registry for the rest of his life. Constand and some of the other 60-plus women who accuse Cosby of sexual assault celebrated the sentence, but Cosby's publicist Andrew Wyatt declared Cosby innocent, criticized the trial, and tied Cosby to Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, who is fighting his own sexual misconduct allegations.
"I believe and think it is important to point out that this has been the most racist and sexist trial in the history of the United States," Wyatt said. “What is going on in Washington today with Judge Kavanaugh is part of that sex war that Judge O’Neill along with his wife are a part of."
Kavanaugh and his allies may not be thrilled at Wyatt's attempt to shackle the federal appellate judge to a convicted sex offender, but Wyatt had another analogy, too: "They persecuted Jesus, and look what happened. I'm not saying Mr. Cosby's Jesus, but we know what this country has done to black men for centuries. So Mr. Cosby's doing fine, he's holding up well. And everybody who wants to say anything negative, you're a joke as well." Peter Weber
Florence Wisniewski isn't going to let a hurricane sully her good name.
Wisniewski, 4, lives in Chicago, far from where Hurricane Florence caused so much devastation. Her mother, Tricia Wisniewski, told WLS-TV that she explained to her daughter what was going on in the Carolinas, and showed her video of the flooding and houses underwater. "She wanted to help," Tricia Wisniewski said. So Florence, who goes by Flo, helped her mother set up a donation bin on their porch.
They took a map of the hurricane's path and covered it with photos of Flo, and then shared the image on Facebook, asking for donations. Since then, the family has collected food, diapers, toiletries, and money for people affected by Hurricane Florence, which "speaks volumes of the neighborhood," Tricia Wisniewski said. Flo told WLS-TV it was important for her to give back because "it's right to do, to help people." Catherine Garcia
Rachel Mitchell, an Arizona prosecutor and registered Republican, will question Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford on Thursday in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) confirmed Tuesday night.
Ford has accused Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her when they were teenagers. All 11 Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee are men, and they've decided to bring a woman in to ask Ford and Kavanaugh questions while they are under oath during Thursday's hearing.
The Washington Post was the first to report that Mitchell was the leading candidate. Mitchell is a 26-year veteran of the Maricopa County Attorney's Office in Phoenix, and is the sex crimes bureau chief.
This is a breaking news story and has been updated throughout. Catherine Garcia
The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to vote Friday morning on Judge Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court nomination.
On Thursday, the panel will hear testimony from Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford, a professor who said she was sexually assaulted by Kavanaugh when they were teenagers. Under committee rules, a vote must be scheduled three days in advance, and Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said a vote might not take place. "If we're ready to vote, we will vote," he tweeted. "If we aren't ready, we won't."
The committee's ranking Democrat, Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, said it's "outrageous" for a vote to be scheduled "two days before Dr. Blasey Ford has had a chance to tell her story." Catherine Garcia
Snapchat is getting political. Well, kind of.
The short-term messaging app is partnering with TurboVote to encourage its young users to register to vote in time for the U.S. midterm elections, it announced Tuesday. Anyone over the age of 18 will now receive a voter registration link when they click into their profile, reports The Verge. Snapchat will also deploy in-app alerts, messages, relevant news stories linked through Snapchat's registration page, and a filter to promote National Voter Registration Day on Oct. 2.
In its latest move, the tech giant is following behind Instagram, which also partnered with TurboVote recently to mobilize its users. Historically, young voters have shied away from political participation, but Snapchat is hoping to reverse that by providing resources to its 100 million American users. Come November, Snapchat will be able to judge whether its efforts paid off. Read more at The Verge. Amari Pollard
Bill Cosby was sentenced Tuesday to at least three years in prison, a decision that was welcomed by many of the women who have publicly accused him of sexual assault.
After Cosby was sentenced as result of his conviction on charges of drugging and sexually assaulting former Temple University employee Andrea Constand, at least one woman in the courtroom raised her fist in the air and said "Yes!" reports The Associated Press. Janice Dickinson, a former model who testified that Cosby assaulted her, threw back her head and laughed in the courtroom upon hearing the sentence, reports HuffPost. She reportedly looked at Cosby and said "See, I got the last laugh, pal."
The former comedian, who has been accused of sexual misconduct by more than 60 women, was denied bail. Montgomery County Judge Steven O'Neill said that "equal justice under the law" meant that Cosby should not be treated differently based on "who he is or who he was," reports BuzzFeed News' Julia Reinstein. O'Neill spoke directly to Cosby in announcing his sentence: "You claimed her silence was consent," he said. "That is not the law."
In a press conference following the sentencing, women who have come forward with allegations said they were glad to have achieved "justice." Chelan Lasha, who also testified during Cosby's trial, said she has "waited 32 years for this day, hoping my nightmare will go away." Representatives for Cosby maintained that he was wrongfully convicted, and said he was the victim of "the most racist and sexist trial in the history of the United States."
Cosby left the courtroom in handcuffs for his three- to 10-year sentence, which will begin immediately. Summer Meza
Although Disney dramatically fired writer-director James Gunn from Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, the film will still tell the story he had planned.
The company has "every intention" of using Gunn's script for the upcoming movie, actor Sean Gunn, James' brother, recently told Tulsa World. Disney fired James Gunn from the project in July after offensive tweets he'd sent years ago, which included jokes about pedophilia, resurfaced. Disney said at the time that it was severing their relationship with him because his tweets were "indefensible," though critics who disagreed with Disney's decision pointed to the fact that Gunn had addressed the controversial tweets in the past, and that they were resurfaced in the first place by alt-right troll Mike Cernovich.
Either way, Gunn was fired from the project. But he had already fully completed his screenplay, leaving open the question of whether Disney would still make the movie using that script or start from scratch. The stars of the multi-billion dollar franchise were strongly in favor of Disney keeping Gunn's script, with Drax actor Dave Bautista saying he'd ask to be released from his contract if Disney didn't do so. The actors also put out a statement in July saying Gunn should be re-instated as director, though that door appears to be closed after Disney CEO Bob Iger recently doubled down on the decision to boot him in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter.
Gunn will need to receive a writing credit if his script is retained. For now, production on Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is on hold, and while nobody is quite sure when it will resume, Sean Gunn says Marvel has assured him that it still plans to make the film at some point. Needless to say, though, the previously-anticipated May 2020 release is now out of the question. Read more at Tulsa World. Brendan Morrow