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House unanimously approves back pay for 800,000 furloughed federal workers
Oct-05-2013 455 0


The House on Saturday unanimously approved legislation to provide retroactive pay for furloughed federal workers after the government shutdown ends. The vote was 407-0.

The White House said Friday that it “strongly supports” the legislation and urged its “swift” passage, even while warning that the single bill alone “will not address the serious consequences of the funding lapse.”

The Senate is still deciding how to proceed with the legislation, a Democratic leadership aide said, adding that it is unlikely the Senate will act on it today.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said on the Senate floor that it is "cruel" to promise pay in the future but not allow federal workers to go back to work while the shutdown continues.

"It's really cruel to tell workers they'll receive back pay once the government opens and then refuse to open the government," he said. "Let's open the government."

Reid said the message being sent to federal workers is: "Stay home. Watch TV. Play chess. Whatever you want to do, because we won't let you work."

Approximately 800,000 government employees are furloughed during the shutdown.

Workers deemed essential and who are currently on the job will be paid for their work during the shutdown, although their paychecks could be delayed. But furloughed employees need congressional approval to receive back pay.

After past shutdowns, Congress passed similar measures, but federal employee unions had warned early in this impasse that there was no guarantee that Congress would act..

During the budget stalemate, the GOP-led House has passed a series of bills to fund some of the most popular programs impacted by the funding lapse - like national parks and care for veterans. But the Senate has declined to take up those piecemeal measures, saying that the government should instead be fully reopened.

"I'm glad to see at the very least that the Senate has plans to take up this bill," Rep. Hal Rogers R-Ky., said of the Senate's likely action on the back pay legislation. "Stop the presses! The Senate's going to take up a bill!"

The back pay measure was introduced by Democrat Jim Moran of Northern Virginia, which has one of the country’s highest populations of federal workers.

"The issue is fairness," Moran said on the House floor. "It's just wrong for hundreds of thousands of federal employees not to know whether they're going to be able to make their mortgage payment, not to know whether they're going to be able to provide for their families."

In a statement, House Speaker John Boehner lauded the passage of the measure and called for a resolution to the shutdown that includes measures to modify the Obama-backed health care reform legislation.

“It’s encouraging to see both parties come together to provide fairness for the 800,000 federal workers hurt by this shutdown," he said. "Now we should do something about the 800,000 jobs being destroyed by the president’s health care law."

Democrats continued to say they want GOP leaders to allow a vote on a government funding bill without add-ons that would make major changes to Obamacare.

Saying that ensuring retroactive pay was "the right thing to do," Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., said the fact that furloughed workers remain unable to go to work "highlights the sheer folly" of the ongoing government shutdown.

The House's move comes as the shutdown stretches into its fifth day. In an interview with The Associated Press, President Barack Obama again called on House leaders to put the "clean" funding bill up for a vote.

"We know that there are enough members in the House of Representatives -- Democrats and Republicans -- who are prepared to vote to reopen the government today," he said. "The only thing that is keeping that from happening is Speaker Boehner has made a decision that he is going to hold out to see if he can get additional concessions from us."


NBC's Kasie Hunt grills Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, on whether or not he supports giving back pay to furloughed government workers during this government shutdown.

If the Senate does take up the bill, a fast-track process could allow the bill to be passed as early as Saturday, although that move would require every senator to agree.

In an interview with NBC News, Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas -- whose lengthy argument against Obamacare last month galvanized the GOP opposition to the short-term budget bill that led to the ongoing shutdown -- would not say whether or not he will object to the agreement.

“I support the House working cooperatively to resolve this, to fund the government, and at the same time, to prevent the enormous harms Obamacare is inflicting on millions of Americans,” he said.

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AP Sep-18-2014 80 0
The Senate added its conflicted stamp of approval to President Barack Obama's request to arm and train Syrian rebels against the Islamic State, voting to fund what amounts to the start of a new war without an actual war vote.

The measure -- attached to a must-pass bill to fund the government until Dec. 11 -- spends $500 million to start training and arming Syrian rebels and to expand on the campaign launched in August against the extremist advance in Iraq.

The bill passed 73 to 22, and heads to the White House, where President Barack Obama, who ran as an anti-war president, is likely to sign it. It allows Obama in effect to begin hostilities against an enemy in Syria, relying on the war declarations passed with the authorizations to use military force in 2001 and 2002 that targeted al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein.

Lawmakers and the White House agree the AUMFs are outdated -- some members don’t even think it’s constitutional for the president to apply them to current military operations against ISIS -- and need to be modernized.

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), who made the case for the majority, acknowledged that the Senate needs to hold a broader debate, and a vote, on a new war authorization. Durbin said he expects that to happen only after lawmakers return from the elections in November.

"We have a special responsibility given to us by the Constitution that says the American people declare war, not the president," Durbin said. "So we will come back and start the debate on what's known as [an AUMF], a modern version … It's a debate that's long overdue."

The debate Thursday was a study in contradictions, with senators like Durbin who backed the funding complaining about Obama's war authority, and senators who opposed the funding saying nevertheless it is vital for the United States to stop ISIS or ISIL, as the extremists are also known.

Perhaps the highest profile opponent, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), argued that he would have voted for a war authorization, even as he condemned intervention and mocked the idea of arming Syrian rebels under the old war declarations.

"As [Secretary of State John] Kerry understands it, we could use that [2001] authorization of force to attack the same people we're giving the weapons to. Think about the insanity of this," Paul said. "We're giving weapons to people fighting in trenches with al Qaeda. We could actually attack under that formulation the very people we're giving the weapons to. It's absurd."

Still, before voting against funding, Paul said ISIS was a real threat. "I think there are valid reasons for being involved, and I think we are doing the right thing, but just in the wrong way."

Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) also argued that Obama does not have the authority to wage a new war, but he voted for the funding, calling it "the least-worst option."

Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) called ISIS "terrorist thugs" and a threat to the United States, but adamantly opposed arming the rebels "or who they might be 12 months from now."

"I disagree with my president," Begich said, arguing that the people who live in the area are the ones who should be "stepping up to the plate."

Similarly, Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) said Arab nations should be the ones stepping forward and bearing the burdens, and worried that the costs would again be born by American taxpayers.

"We must stop putting wars on a credit card," Tester said before voting for the bill. "And I wonder if once we start an overseas conflict, do we know where and when it will stop? Do we know what our spending will achieve?"

Even senators who were adamantly for tougher action were not happy with the measure they backed.

"I'll support it. It's long overdue support for the brave Syrians who are fighting on the front lines against a common terrorist enemy," said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), even as he complained that Obama should have acted two years ago, and that even now he was telegraphing his plans to the enemy.

"Two years ago, it could have been decisive, it's not now," McCain said. "We're talking about 5,000 [Syrians] that we're going to train over a year or more period, and they're going to be fighting against an estimated 31,500 fighters."

McCain also complained about a lack of candor over the required U.S. commitment to winning, citing former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who predicted "they're not going to be successful against ISIS strictly from the air."

"That's the opinion not of John McCain … but Robert Gates and every military expert I have talked to," McCain said.

Current administration military leaders have said they have no intentions of putting boots on the ground, but also warned that the circumstances could change.

After Thursday's vote, whatever the circumstances become, Congress will not have another say until mid-November, at the earliest.

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Aug-28-2014 156 0
"We can't ignore the inequities that persist in our justice system that undermine our most deeply held values of fairness and equality"

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made her first public comments Thursday on the shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., calling for the country to address “inequities” in the criminal justice system.

The likely 2016 Democratic presidential candidate addressed the both the shooting and the days of often violent protests that followed, saying “this is what happens when the bonds of trust and respect that hold any community together fray.”

Clinton’s comments came at the end of a paid speaking appearance in San Francisco. She said her “heart just broke” for Brown’s family after the unarmed 18-year old was shot by police officer Darren Wilson more than two weeks ago. She also condemned the “terrible” images on television of heavily-armed police facing off with largely peaceful protestors. “Nobody wants to see our streets look like a war zone,” she said. “Not in America, we are better than that.” And Clinton called for a renewed focus on reforming the nation’s criminal justice system, saying the country must confront lingering unfairness.

“We can’t ignore the inequities that persist in our justice system that undermine our most deeply held values of fairness and equality,” she said.

“Imagine what we would feel and what we would do if white drivers were three times as likely to be searched by police during a traffic stop as black drivers, instead of the other way around,” Clinton said. “If white offenders received prison sentences 10 percent longer than black offenders for the same crimes. If a third of all white men—just look at this room and take one third—went to prison during their lifetime. Imagine that. That is the reality in the lives of so many of our fellow Americans and so many of the communities in which they live.”

Clinton noted that her remarks fell on the 51st anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech during the 1963 March on Washington. “That mission is as fiercely urgent today as when he stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in the hot August sun all those years ago,” she said. “So we have a lot of work to do together.”

Protesters march in the street as lightning flashes in the distance in this long exposure photo taken in Ferguson, Mo., on Aug. 20, 2014.

Police officers in riot gear watch demonstrators protesting against the shooting of Michael Brown from the side of a building in Ferguson, Mo. on Aug. 19, 2014.

A man is doused with milk and sprayed with mist after being hit by an eye irritant from security forces trying to disperse demonstrators in Ferguson, Mo. early on Aug. 20, 2014.

A police officer in riot gear detains a demonstrator protesting against the shooting of Michael Brown, in Ferguson, Mo. on Aug. 19, 2014.
Jeff Roberson—AP

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dan merica Aug-25-2014 183 0
Hillary Clinton, who has yet to comment about the protests over the death of an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri, ignored questions about the incident on Sunday.

After signing more than 700 books at Books & Books in Westhampton Beach, Clinton was asked by two reporters for her reaction to the controversy.

Clinton ignored both questions and left the bookstore.

Liberal activists and civil rights leaders have asked Clinton for her response, saying she is the presumed front-runner for her party's presidential nomination in 2016 and that she has commented on major news stories in the past.

Michael Brown was shot dead earlier this month by a Missouri police officer. The shooting sparked large protests in the St. Louis suburb, which were highlighted by looting and a sizable police presence.

Attorney General Eric Holder visited Ferguson last week to check in on the federal civil rights investigation into the shooting, and President Barack Obama's White House has begun to look into the equipment the federal government provides to police forces.

At a rally earlier this month about the killing, Rev. Al Sharpton, a civil rights leader and host on MSNBC, said, "Jeb Bush, Hillary Clinton, don’t get laryngitis on this issue."

He then added, "Nobody can go to the White House unless they stop by our house and talk about policing."

Clinton was well received in the tony New York beach town. Countless attendees urged her to run for president and some even demanded that she do so.

"You've gotta run," said one woman. "I want to vote for you." Another tried guilt, telling Clinton that voting for her was on her bucket list. "You can't deny me of that, right," she added.

Clinton also slightly tipped her hand on running a few times.

When one man said his brother was her youngest canvasser during her failed 2008 bid, Clinton respond with a smile, "Keep up your strength."

Another man asked Clinton for her campaign contact, to which the former first lady replied, "Oh, I don't have a campaign yet."

Two attendees offered mild protest to the former secretary of state. One asked a question about the United States' role in Iran and another said he disapproved of the way Clinton handled the Arab Spring.

In the latter case, Clinton urged the man to read her book.

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Aug-24-2014 184 0
The White House is sending three officials to Michael Brown's funeral Monday, including one who attended high school with his mother.

Brown,18, was fatally shot on August 9 by officer Darren Wilson while walking down the streets of Ferguson, Missouri.

The officials attending the funeral are Broderick Johnson, who leads the White House's My Brother's Keeper Task Force. He'll be joined by Marlon Marshall, a St. Louis native who attended high school with Brown's mother, and Heather Foster. Both Marshall and Foster are part of the White House Office of Public Engagement.

Brown will be eulogized at the Friendly Temple Missionary Baptist Church in St. Louis.

Race tensions

Two weeks after the shooting sparked violent protests, the mood turned more tranquil Saturday with smaller crowds and lots of music. Gone were police in riot gear glaring at defiant protesters. The tear gas, rubber bullets and Molotov cocktails were nowhere to be seen, either.

In their place were clusters of officers, hanging around businesses, chatting with one another.

Race has been at the forefront of the tensions; Brown was African-American and the officer who shot him is white.

St. Louis authorities released details of the racial and gender makeup of the grand jury, which started hearing testimony on Wednesday.

It comprises six white men, three white women, two black women and one black man, said Paul Fox, the administrator for the St. Louis County Circuit Court.

St. Louis County is 70% white and 24% black, according to last year's estimate by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Unlike a jury in a criminal case, which convicts someone if jurors are convinced of guilt "beyond a reasonable doubt," a grand jury decides whether there is "probable cause." They decide whether to charge someone with a crime based on testimony and evidence presented in the absence of a judge.

In Missouri, they don't have to be in unanimous agreement to press such an indictment, as long as nine of the 12 agree on a charge.

The federal government is conducting a separate investigation.

FBI agents interviewed more than 200 people as part of the U.S. Justice Department's civil rights investigation, according to law enforcement sources.

The federal probe must prove there was an element of "racial hostility" in the shooting. That's a higher standard than the one before the St. Louis County grand jury.

The 12 members of the grand jury are crucial. They may be the first to reach a decision on whether the case will be defined as a murder charge, a lesser charge or no charge at all.

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Aug-20-2014 213 0
A St. Louis County grand jury will begin hearing evidence in the shooting death of Michael Brown Wednesday, as U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder arrived for a visit to Ferguson, Missouri.

County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch told reporters that the grand jury's work would begin Wednesday.

Holder's visit comes on the heels of a quieter night that still saw some scuffles between police and protesters, some of whom authorities accused of throwing water bottles and urine at them.

Sent by a President troubled by the shooting and the resulting violence, Holder is expected to check in on the federal civil rights investigation into Brown's death August 9. A white police officer shot the unarmed African-American teenager after stopping him as he walked on a Ferguson street.
Police have said Brown tried to shove Officer Darren Wilson back into his car and struggled for his gun. Witnesses who have spoken to CNN and other media say Brown was standing with his hands in the air when he was shot.

Holder's visit and the federal investigation are separate from the St. Louis County grand jury inquiry.

'Getting frustrated'

The grand jury will consider the case in secret -- much to the chagrin of those who have called for transparency.

St. Louis Alderman Antonio French, who has been a regular fixture at the protests, said people are getting impatient to see how prosecutors plan to handle the case.

"We're on day 12 now," he said. "I think the people expect to see something by now, and they're getting frustrated."

But charges against the officer from either investigation will not come quickly, CNN law enforcement expert Tom Fuentes said.

In the state investigation, forensic details, the autopsy results and toxicology tests are still pending.

And federal investigators will plod ahead slowly, Fuentes said

"If they choose to bring charges against Officer Wilson, they have to go to trial in 90 days."

So, they will take their time to make their case thoroughly, he said.

"They will rather be slow than wrong," he said.

More scuffles

Tuesday night's protests started peacefully.

A few hundred people walked up and down a small area. "Hands up! Don't shoot" was their mantra, as it has been every night.

Many of the demonstrators added a second chant: "We protesters, we don't loot."

Things remained peaceful until late, when a water bottle flew at police.

By that time, most protesters had cleared out. Journalists outnumbered those who remained.

Officers put on helmets and shields, lined up in front of some businesses and demanded a small crowd there clear out.

But when the bottle flew, officers broke into a sprint, chasing after young men.

This prompted a handful of agitated protesters to toss more bottles, glass and plastic.

Missouri State Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson, who's tasked with maintaining peace, told reporters that someone had thrown urine on police.

After the chase, the number of riot police ballooned. Officers brought out dogs. One officer used pepper spray on some in the crowd.

Protesters locked hands in front of a police line, and some urged the crowd to remain peaceful.

Others donned T-shirts printed with the word "peacekeeper," and tried to defuse tensions. Some talked emphatically with young men, who appeared to want to charge at the police.

Johnson credited them for preventing further escalation.

Police arrested 47 people, Johnson said, including a car full of people who he said were armed and had made threats to shoot an officer.

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Aug-14-2014 323 0
President Barack Obama spoke with Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon on Thursday, sharing his concerns about recent violence in Ferguson after the shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown by a police officer.

"Now's the time for healing, now's the time for peace and calm on the streets of Ferguson," Obama told reporters.

Nixon, for his part, said he would be making changes to help change the tone in the community, but he did not say what they would be. But he said it was crucial to allow protesters to express their anger so long as they respect the rights of others.

"We will not get the healing that we all need if the only response from the public is, 'Y'all just be quiet,' " he said.

Nixon traveled to Ferguson to appeal for calm after a night in which heavily armed police and protesters clashed. Wednesday's violence was the fourth straight night of unrest after Brown's shooting Saturday.

Nixon said he would visit the St. Louis suburb amid calls for continued protests and rising anger among residents about a lack of progress in the case and the treatment of protesters.

Police have also received harsh words from national media organizations after the brief arrest Wednesday of two reporters and the tear-gassing of an Al Jazeera America camera crew.

"The worsening situation in Ferguson is deeply troubling, and does not represent who we are as Missourians or as Americans," Nixon said in a statement Thursday. "While we all respect the solemn responsibility of our law enforcement officers to protect the public, we must also safeguard the rights of Missourians to peaceably assemble and the rights of the press to report on matters of public concern."

Nixon's statement comes after a fourth night of violent clashes between police and protesters that began Sunday with unrest and looting in the city on St. Louis' northern border.

After ordering protesters and reporters to turn off their cameras, police fired smoke bombs, tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters after some threw objects at them Wednesday, according to media accounts. CNN crews have not been ordered to turn off their cameras during the protests.

Twelve people were arrested, Ferguson police Chief Thomas Jackson said. Two officers were injured.

History of trouble

While locals say race relations have long been troubled between the city's mostly African-American population and the mostly white police force, anger spilled out after Brown's shooting death.

Police have released few details of what happened but have said the officer -- whose identity has not yet been made public by officials -- was defending himself against an effort by Brown to grab his weapon.

Jackson said the officer was sent to a hospital for treatment of facial swelling after the incident, but he did not say how he received the wounds.

Witnesses dispute police account

Witnesses paint a different portrait than that offered by police, saying Brown was running away when the officer first shot at him.

A town in turmoil -- 5 things about Ferguson, Missouri

Two witnesses told CNN on Wednesday that while Brown did appear to tussle with an officer before he was shot, he didn't enter the police cruiser as authorities say he did.

The women's accounts corroborate that of a previous witness, all three of whom said the officer fatally shot the unarmed teen.

Tiffany Mitchell told CNN she drove to Ferguson on Saturday to pick up an employee for work just in time to see Brown tussling at the window of a police vehicle.

She and the employee, Piaget Crenshaw, told CNN's Don Lemon on Wednesday about Brown's last moments.

"It looked as if Michael was pushing off and the cop was trying to pull him in," Mitchell said.

Crenshaw, still in her building, watched the same events from her window. She later shot cell phone video of the aftermath, which CNN obtained from affiliate KMOV.

It looked like the two of them were arm wrestling, she said.

Neither woman, who gave their statements to St. Louis County police, say they saw Brown enter the vehicle.

Instead, a shot went off, then the teen broke free, and the officer got out of the vehicle in pursuit, the women said.

"I saw the police chase him ... down the street and shoot him down," Crenshaw said. Brown ran about 20 feet.

"Michael jerks his body, as if he's been hit," Mitchell said.

Then he faced the officer and put his hands in the air, but the officer kept firing, both women said. He sank to the pavement.

After that, Crenshaw hit record on her cell phone. News of the killing spread fast through the neighborhood, and Brown's uncle walked up to the body to see if it was really his nephew, Crenshaw said.

The video shows police directing him back behind police tape.

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Aug-12-2014 397 0
President Obama released the following statement about the death of Michael Brown, Jr.:

The death of Michael Brown is heartbreaking, and Michelle and I send our deepest condolences to his family and his community at this very difficult time. As Attorney General Holder has indicated, the Department of Justice is investigating the situation along with local officials, and they will continue to direct resources to the case as needed. I know the events of the past few days have prompted strong passions, but as details unfold, I urge everyone in Ferguson, Missouri, and across the country, to remember this young man through reflection and understanding. We should comfort each other and talk with one another in a way that heals, not in a way that wounds. Along with our prayers, that’s what Michael and his family, and our broader American community, deserve.

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Daryl K. Washington Aug-12-2014 155 0
When I first heard about the investigation and subsequent indictment of Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price, I had mixed emotions because I felt it might have been politically motivated and possibly not the truth. After nothing had yet been revealed after a three-year investigation, I thought that perhaps everything would be OK.

However, that changed when the charges were read and the facts were disclosed a couple of weeks ago.

There is a side of me that wonders how this can be happening to yet another high-profile Afrrican-American politician who spent most of his career as a leading voice against racial inequality and injustice.

When I arrived in Dallas in the 1980s, I saw this one guy who was not afraid to tackle the racial issues many were faced with here. I wanted to meet this guy, and soon I was able to do that because we attended the same church. John Wiley Price was a household name and someone I respected for his courage and political savvy to tackle sensitive issues — even if we did not always agree about what was the best approach.

John was respected by many, and we knew that if he was in the room, the concerns of African-Americans would not be ignored. John simply demanded fair treatment for African-Americans, and he had the backbone to say what many were afraid to.

What can be taken away from all of this is that, if you decide to be a public servant, you should do it because your heart is in it and not because of any financial incentives involved.

There’s a community of individuals who depend on elected officials to be honest, committed, transparent and to be individuals with plenty of integrity. When politicians lose the trust and confidence of their constituents, it becomes harder for many people to want to be a part of the political process.

Over the last five years, many highly respected African-American politicians who were admired by people of all races are now serving time in prison for committing crimes that appear to have been motivated by greed and power.

Individuals such as Jesse Jackson Jr., former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, former Dallas Mayor Pro Tem Don Hill and former Louisiana state Rep. William Jefferson were individuals with promising careers who did not need to take any shortcuts to be successful.

They provided young black men with the examples so badly needed, and to now see them in their current predicaments has been a letdown and truly a disappointment to many who viewed them as role models.

As an attorney, I know that an indictment does not translate to guilt. But many will ask, why allow yourself to be included in that conversation?

Over the next few months, many of us will follow this case closely with the hope that it is somehow a great big mistake. However, there is no doubt in my mind that questions will remain in the minds of many, even if there’s an acquittal.

Many will wonder whether Price will ever be able to rebuild what it took years to build. Can he ever regain the trust from many who supported him for 30 years?

What can be taken away from all of this is that hard work, honesty and transparency trump bad behavior any day. Anything worth having requires hard work. Do things the right way or don’t do them at all. The problem of greed impacts all communities, but as an African-American leader, I’m focusing my commentary on African-American politicians because we’ve had to work too hard for equal treatment and respect to allow wrongdoings to put an end to promising careers.

Dallas lawyer Daryl K. Washington may be contacted at dwashington@dwashlawfirm.com.

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Dan Friedman Aug-08-2014 224 0
In a bid to protect Americans and prevent a “potential genocide,” President Obama authorized air strikes Thursday night against Islamic terrorists sweeping through Iraq.

The President, speaking in a late night White House address to the nation, said he gave permission for “targeted air strikes” to break the siege by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria fighters in northern Iraq.

In recent days, tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians have been forced to flee their homes in the area of Sinjar. The displaced Iraqis have taken refuge atop nearby Mount Sinjar, where they are dying of thirst and starvation.

“We can act carefully and responsibly to prevent a potential act of genocide,” Obama said.

Most of the civilians are Yazidis, a small and ancient religious sect that ISIS has vowed to exterminate in their quest to make Iraq an Islamic state.

“They are without food, they are without water. People are starving and children are dying of thirst,” Obama said. “Meanwhile, ISIS forces below have called for the systematic destruction of the entire Yazidi people, which would constitute genocide.

“So these innocent families are faced with the horrible choice: Descend the mountain and be slaughtered, or stay and slowly die of thirst and hunger.”

Obama said the U.S. has already begun air-dropping food and water on Mount Sinjar at the request of the Iraqi government.

“When we face a situation like we do on that mountain with innocent people facing the prospect of violence on a horrific scale . . . I believe the United States of America cannot turn a blind eye.

“Earlier this week, one Iraqi cried to the world, ‘There is no one coming to help.’ Well, today, America is coming to help,” Obama said.

He said the American military would conduct air strikes to help forces in Iraq.

But Obama — whose first presidential campaign included the pledge to end the war in Iraq — insisted the action will not lead to American combat troops returning to Iraq.

The President said he was also concerned about protecting personnel at the U.S. Consulate in Erbil, a major city in northern Iraq that ISIS forces were poised to overrun.

“We intend to stay vigilant and take action if these terrorist forces threaten our personnel or facilities anywhere in Iraq, including our consulate in Erbil and our embassy in Baghdad,” the President said.

Obama’s action was garnering support among Washington lawmakers on the other side of the aisle.

“I fully support the President’s decision to authorize air strikes,” Rep. Pete King (R-L.I.) told the Daily News Thursday night.

Obama said the US has already began air dropping food and water on Mount Sinjar at the request of the Iraqi government.

King — chairman of the House Homeland Security Subcommittee — said more U.S. help might be needed later, including supplying weapons to the Kurdish forces who are battling to repel ISIS in northern Iraq.

King faulted Obama, however, for taking the threat of ground troops off the table.

“I don’t think he should be saying what he won’t do,” King said. “I don’t think he should be saying we’re not gonna use ground troops.”

In a joint statement, Republican senators John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said Obama is “right” to provide humanitarian relief and authorize air strikes.

But they warned more is needed.

“We need to get beyond a policy of half measures. The President needs to devise a comprehensive strategy to degrade ISIS,” the senators said.


As many as 50,000 Iraqi minorities — Christians and Yazidis — abandoned their homes over the weekend after fighters with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria seized their towns and gave them a stark choice - convert, or be executed.
Khalid Mohammed/AP

As many as 50,000 Iraqi minorities — Christians and Yazidis — abandoned their homes over the weekend after fighters with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria seized their towns and gave them a stark choice - convert, or be executed.

Secretary of State Kerry described ISIS’ actions in recent days as a “wakeup call.”

The ISIS fighters, who are Sunnis, have been sweeping across northern Iraq all summer, capturing towns, executing Shiites and imposing their strict form of Islam.

After nearly a week of fighting, the ISIS marauders captured Iraq’s largest dam on Thursday, taking control of water and power supplied to millions of people.

Iraqi Yazidi women demonstrate outside the UN offices in the Iraqi city of Arbil. The Yazidis, are a small community that follows a 4,000-year-old faith and have been repeatedly targeted by jihadists who call them 'devil-worshipers' because of their unique beliefs and practices.

Kurdish troops stand guard during an intensive security deployment on the outskirts of Sinjar, west of Mosul.

The fall of the Mosul Dam gave the radical group control over precious resources — and the power to cause almost incomprehensible death and devastation.

If the dam is destroyed or simply fails, it would unleash a 65-foot wave of water. Parts of Mosul, 31 miles downstream, could be swamped under 20 feet of water, and even areas of Baghdad, 200 miles away, would be flooded, according to experts.

A 2011 report by the Army Corps of Engineers said as many as 500,000 people could be killed.

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