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Monday, September 16, 2013

12 Victims, 1 Gunman Dead in DC Navy Yard Shooting

Police are looking for another potential gunman after the shooting this morning in a DC naval office building that left 13 dead and over a dozen injured. The dead gunman has since been identified as 34-year-old Aaron Alexis, a military contractor who most recently lived in Fort Worth, Texas. There was initial confusion about his identity due to the multiple identification cards found with his body. He was also carrying an AR-15 assault rifle, a shotgun and a semiautomatic pistol, one or more of which he might have taken off the bodies of the dead.

The shooters dressed in military-style camouflage consistent with Navy uniforms and the remaining suspect is a black man in his 50s carrying a “long gun.” Witnesses described a gunman opening fire onto a first-floor cafeteria from an overlook on the fourth floor, while were attacked in a third-floor hallway. It is not clear whether the two were the same person. No motive is known.

UN Announces Sarin Gas Used in Syria Attack

Confirming what everyone has known for weeks, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said there was “overwhelming and indisputable” evidence that chemical weapons were used in Syria, but did not say by whom. He branded the act a “war crime” but did not specify what kinds of consequences the Assad regime should face if Syria does not put its chemical weapons under international control. US Secretary of State John Kerry emphasized that “the threat of force is real” as the US pushed for a strong UN measure on Syria, while Russia suggested it might ‘force’ the Syrian opposition into peace talks. Russia bizarrely insisted that threatening force shows a ‘lack of understanding’ of the Geneva Conventions.

Nevertheless, the deal represents a serious blow to the rebels, who are already splintering along Islamist/moderate lines. A UN human rights investigator said today that the war crimes committed by the rebels have been predominantly carried out by foreign fighters, while the Free Syrian Army was attempting to adhere to human rights law. This past week, the number of Syrians fleeing into Jordan reached an average of 900 people a day, the highest in months. At the same time, around 600 Syrians a week are returning home, considering a war zone marginally better than the refugee camps they have endured.

Filipino Troops Retake Land from Rebels

After launching a helicopter airstrike in a bid to end an eight-day standoff in Zamboanga City and its surrounding villages the military claimed it had recaptured 70% of rebel-held villages. Troops have arrested or killed more than 100 rebels, but another 1000 remained holed up with an equal number of hostages.

The rebels have been known to use civilians as ‘human shields,’ but when asked about potential civilian casualties, Lieutenant Colonel Ramon Zagala emphasized that they were “precision strikes.” He said the latest fighting had left 51 rebels, 6 security forces and 4 civilians dead.

70,000 people have been displaced, in a stark reminder that religious grievances still fester in this Catholic-majority country.

Cambodian Protests Rage

Police attempted to disperse demonstrators with force yesterday, leading to clashes that left one man dead. Today, ten thousand demonstrators regathered in Phnom Penh to challenge the country’s recent disputed election win by Prime Minister Hun Sen. The opposition believes the election was rigged to ensure the continuation of Hun Sen’s iron-fisted 28-year rule. These protests, which have been ongoing since June 28, pose the biggest threat to his government to date.

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy and Hun Sen reluctantly met today for over four hours trying to end the political deadlock. The two sides gave a joint statement listing three points they had agreed on: more talks, ensuring future protests were peaceful, and setting up a committee to reform the election process. Their next meeting is set for Tuesday.

Deadly Storms and Floods Around the World

Hurricane Ingrid and the remnants of Tropical Storm Manuel hit opposite coasts of Mexico today, flooding towns and cities, setting off landslides, cutting off roads, and leaving at least 33 dead. Over 23,000 people have been forced to flee their homes and 9,000 are currently staying in emergency shelters. It is almost unheard of for a tropical storm and a hurricane to hit the country at the same time.

In Colorado, heavy rains grounded helicopters, hampering the state’s large-scale rescue operation after severe flooding has left thousands unaccounted for. At least seven people have died, 1,500 homes have been destroyed and almost 12,000 have left their homes. “Nearly half” of the region’s annual average has fallen in the past week. With hillsides stripped by recent wildfires, the rains gushed through canyons, with a wall of water as high as 20 feet in at least one canyon.

Meanwhile, Typhoon Man-yi damaged thousands of homes throughout Japan and forced 260,000 people to evacuate in Kyoto, which received an “unprecedented” amount of rainfall.


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