TIME Iraq

U.S. Air Strikes and Aid for Iraqi Town Under Siege

(WASHINGTON) — Aircraft from the United States, Australia, France and Britain dropped food and water to the beleaguered Iraqi town of Amirli, which has been under siege by Islamic State militants for nearly two months, the Pentagon said Saturday night. U.S. airstrikes supported the humanitarian mission.

Thousands of Shiite Turkmen have been stranded in the farming community about 105 miles north of Baghdad. The aid came at the request of the Iraqi government, Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said in a statement.

Military operations will be limited in scope and duration as needed to address the humanitarian crisis in Amirli and protect the civilians trapped in the town, Kirby said.

Instead of fleeing in the face of the Islamic State drive across northern Iraq, the Shiite Turkmens have stayed and fortified their town of 15,000 with trenches and armed positions.

While Amirli fought off the initial attack in June, it has been surrounded by the militants since mid-July. Some residents have said that the Iraqi military’s efforts to fly in food, water and other aid have not been enough amid oppressive heat, lack of electrical power — the town’s power station was destroyed weeks ago — and shelling from the militants.

U.S. airstrikes in Iraq, which began earlier this month, have targeted Islamic State militants attacking Yazidi Iraqis on Mount Sinjar and the militant forces operating in the vicinity of Ibril and Mosul Dam. The beleaguered Yazidis received several humanitarian drops of tons of food and water as well as military support aimed at protecting them.

Earlier Saturday, U.S. Central Command said five more airstrikes had taken place against Islamic State militants near Mosul Dam. Those attacks, carried out by fighter aircraft and unmanned drones, brought to 115 the total number of airstrikes across Iraq since Aug. 8.

TIME russia

EU Sets Russia Ultimatum, Threatens Sanctions

BRUSSELS — The European Union is giving Russia a one-week ultimatum to scale back its intervention in Ukraine or face additional economic sanctions.

EU summit chairman Herman Van Rompuy said early Sunday that the bloc’s 28 leaders tasked its executive body to “urgently undertake preparatory work for consideration within a week.”

He says “everybody is fully aware that we have to act quickly.”

Still, in apparent fear of an economic backlash, EU leaders shied away from immediately imposing tougher sanctions. Russia is the EU’s No. 3 trading partner and one of its biggest oil and gas suppliers.

The fighting between the military and Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine has claimed 2,600 lives, according to U.N. figures. NATO estimates at least 1,000 Russian soldiers are in Ukraine. Russia denies that.

 

TIME Crime

Ferguson Rally Marks 3 Weeks After Brown’s Death

Rally Held in Ferguson Over Police Killing Of Michael Brown
Michael Brown Sr. joins demonstrators at a rally for Michael Brown, Aug. 30, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. Aaron P. Bernstein—Getty Images

FERGUSON, Mo. — Hundreds converged on Ferguson on Saturday to march for Michael Brown, the unarmed black 18-year-old who was shot and killed by a white police officer three weeks ago to the day. His death stoked national discourse about police tactics and race, which the rally’s organizers pledged to continue.

Led by Brown’s parents and other relatives, Saturday’s throng peacefully made their way down Canfield Drive in the St. Louis suburb to a makeshift memorial that marked the spot where Brown was shot Aug. 9 by Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson.

“We know that his life is not going to be in vain,” the Rev. Spencer Booker of St. Louis’ St. Paul A.M.E. Church said into a megaphone, standing in the middle of the street amid candles, placards, stuffed animals and now-wilted flowers. “We know you’re going to even the score, God. We know you’re going to make the wrong right.”

Brown’s parents — mother Lesley McSpadden and father Michael Brown Sr. — encircled the memorial with other family members during prayers, including one by a Muslim clergy member.

Wilson, a six-year police veteran, has not been charged. A St. Louis County grand jury is considering evidence in the case, and federal investigators are sorting out whether Brown’s civil rights were violated.

There was a muted police presence Saturday during the march, which began on a West Florissant Avenue stretch that became the nexus of nightly protests — some contentious and violent — and looting in the days after Brown’s death. Many of the businesses’ windows remain boarded up, though most have reopened. Missouri Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson, whom Missouri’s governor put in charge of security in Ferguson, was there, at times posing with rally attendees for selfies.

Saturday’s gathering included tailgaters and people hawking T-shirts memorializing Brown or featuring slogan, “Hands up, Don’t Shoot” — a phrase that reflects what witnesses have said Brown did in surrender before being shot. Police have said the shooting happened after a struggle between Brown and Wilson in Wilson’s patrol vehicle, though authorities have said little else, citing the investigations.

“We’re just three weeks into this, and this is only the beginning of this movement,” said Jerryl Christmas, a St. Louis attorney who helped lead Saturday’s march and others in the past. He’s intent on keeping Brown and the resulting turmoil and questions “in the forefront of America.”

“We want the president to come here. He remarked that he didn’t have a strategy for ISIS and Syria, but we need a strategy for urban America,” Christmas said. “The tragedy is this could have happened anywhere.”

TIME russia

EU to Slap New Sanctions on Russia Over Ukraine

BRUSSELS (AP) — European Union leaders on Saturday were poised to impose new sanctions against Russia as Ukraine’s president warned the conflict with Moscow threatens peace and stability for Europe as a whole.

Ukraine’s Petro Poroshenko said a strong EU response is needed because his country is subject to “military aggression and terror.”

“Thousand(s) of the foreign troops and hundreds of the foreign tanks are now on the territory of Ukraine,” Poroshenko told reporters, speaking in English. “There is a very high risk not only for peace and stability for Ukraine but for the whole peace and stability of Europe.”

EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said before a summit of the 28-nation EU’s leaders in Brussels that “sanctions are not and end in themselves” but a means to dissuade Russia from further destabilizing Ukraine.

“Russia should not underestimate the European Union’s will and resolve to stand by its principles and values,” he told reporters, adding that the escalation seen over the past week cannot go unpunished.

“The opening of new fronts and the use of Russian regular forces (on Ukrainian soil) is not acceptable and represents a grave transgression,” Barroso added.

NATO estimates that at least 1,000 Russian soldiers are in Ukraine even though Russia denies any military involvement in the fighting that has so far claimed 2,600 lives, according to U.N. figures.

Conceding ground in the face of a reinvigorated rebel offensive, Ukraine said Saturday that it was abandoning a city where its forces have been surrounded by rebels for days. It was also pulling back from another it had claimed to have taken control of two weeks earlier.

The statements by Col. Andriy Lysenko, a spokesman for the national security council, indicate that Ukrainian forces are facing increasingly strong resistance from Russian-backed separatist rebels just weeks after racking up significant gains and forcing rebels out of much of the territory they had held.

Poroshenko, who was meeting with EU leaders later Saturday, said Ukraine would welcome an EU decision to help with military equipment and further intelligence-sharing.

Barroso provided no specifics about which sanctions the heads of state and government might adopt to inflict more economic pain to nudge Russia toward a political solution. “No one’s interest is served by new wars on our continent,” Barroso said.

The EU leaders were likely make a political decision Saturday, with the exact targets of sanctions to be divulged by the EU executive in the coming days.

The United States and the EU have so far imposed sanctions against dozens of Russian officials, several companies and the country’s financial industry. Moscow has retaliated by banning food imports.

New EU sanctions have to be agreed unanimously — a requirement that has in the past blocked or softened decisions since some nations fear the economic fallout. Russia is the EU’s third-largest trading partner and one of its biggest oil and gas suppliers.

Barroso said that the EU — a bloc encompassing half a billion people and stretching from Lisbon to the border with Ukraine — stands ready to grant Kiev further financial assistance if needed. The bloc will also organize a donors’ conference to help rebuild the country’s east at the end of the year, he added.

On the ground, fighting continued.

Ukrainian forces had been surrounded by rebels in the town of Ilovaysk, avout 20 kilometers (15 miles) east of the largest rebel-held city of Donetsk for days.

“We are surrendering this city,” Ukraine’s Lysenko told reporters. “Our task now is to evacuate our military with the least possible losses in order to regroup.”

Lysenko said that regular units of the military had been ordered to retreat from Novosvitlivka and Khryashchuvate, two towns on the main road between the Russian border and Luhansk, the second-largest rebel-held city. Ukraine had claimed control of Novosvitlivka earlier in August.

Separately, Ukrainian forces said one of their Su-25 fighter jets was shot down Friday over eastern Ukraine by a missile from a Russian missile launcher. The pilot ejected and was uninjured, the military said in a brief statement.

TIME Syria

Syrian Rebels Attack UN Peacekeepers in Golan Heights

ISRAEL-SYRIA-PHILIPPINES-CONFLICT-UN
A UN peacekeeper runs past vehicles at the UN headquarters next to the Quneitra crossing, the only border crossing between Israel and Syria, in the Golan Heights, Aug. 30, 2014. Ahmad Gharabli—AFP/Getty Images

BEIRUT — Clashes erupted between al-Qaida-linked Syrian rebels and U.N. peacekeepers in the Golan Heights on Saturday after the militants surrounded their encampment, activists and officials said, as the international organization risked being sucked further into the conflict.

Other U.N. peacekeepers were able to flee from a different encampment that that was also surrounded by rebels of the Nusra Front, al-Qaida’s Syrian affiliate, they said.

The clashes came after Syrian rebel groups, including the Nusra Front, overran the Quneitra crossing — located on the frontier between Syrian and Israeli controlled parts of the Golan Heights — on Wednesday, seizing 44 Fijian peacekeepers.

The Nusra Front also surrounded the nearby Rwihana and Breiqa encampments, where other U.N. peacekeepers were holed up.

The gunbattle began early Saturday at the Rwihana base some 1.5 miles (2.3 kilometers) from Quneitra, where 40 Filipino peacekeepers were surrounded by Nusra fighters who were ordering them to surrender, said Rami Abdurrahman of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The Philippines’ Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin gave a similar account but did not name the armed group.

Abdurrahman, whose information comes from a network of activists throughout Syria, said he was not aware of any fatalities among the 40 Filipino peacekeepers in the Rwihana encampment as sporadic fighting continued throughout the day. A Philippine military spokesman, Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala, also said there were no casualties.

The U.N. mission, known as UNDOF, has 1,223 troops from six countries: Fiji, India, Ireland, Nepal, Netherlands and the Philippines.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon strongly condemned Saturday’s attack on U.N. peacekeepers’ positions in the Golan Heights, in a statement released by his spokesman.

“The Secretary General demands the unconditional and immediate release of all the detained United Nations peacekeepers and calls upon all parties to cooperate fully with UNDOF to enable it to operate freely and to ensure full safety and security of its personnel and assets,” the statement said.

The 35 Filipino U.N. peacekeepers at the Breiqa encampment were extracted on Saturday morning, with the assistance of Irish peacekeepers who rushed to the scene, said officials.

The Irish U.N. peacekeeper battalion, which is tasked with emergency responses, evacuated all the Filipino U.N. peacekeepers on Saturday morning, said a military official who spoke on condition that his name and country of origin not be revealed, citing army policy.

He said there was no shooting involved, and no injuries. He said that the Irish battalion also evacuated another base on Friday but provided no further details.

Gazmin confirmed that peacekeepers from his country were “extricated.” The Philippine military said there were 35 Filipino troops in the encampment.

An Israeli military spokesman confirmed that a number of U.N. peacekeepers entered Israel. He spoke on condition of anonymity citing military guidelines.

It was not immediately clear which rebel group was holding the Fijian U.N. peacekeepers, although it was likely to be the Nusra Front, said Syrian activist Abdurrahman.

The Nusra Front has recently seized hostages to exchange for prisoners detained in Syria and Lebanon.

The situation of the peacekeepers, tasked with monitoring a 1974 disengagement accord between Syria and Israel, remains “very, very fluid,” the U.N. secretary-general’s spokesman, Stephane Dujarric, told reporters Friday at the U.N. headquarters in New York.

The U.N. said in a statement that it had received assurances from credible sources that the Fijian peacekeepers “are safe and in good health.”

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has condemned the detention of the Fijians and called for their immediate release.

Various rebel groups have been engaged in intense fighting with the Syrian military in and near the Golan Heights.

Also Saturday, a Syrian activist released a video showing extremists from the Islamic State group opening fire and killing dozens of men stripped down to their underwear.

The men in the video were likely those who were captured after the extremists overran a Syrian airfield on Sunday; Syrian soldiers who were stuck behind front lines after the northeastern Tabqa air base fell to the Islamic State group.

The video, released by an activist who uses the name Abu Ibrahim Raqqawi, corresponded with The Associated Press reporting of the event. It matched a series of other videos that were released since Wednesday. One video showed the men being held in a concrete-floor room; another showed the men forced to march through a barren landscape in their underwear, herded like sheep. Another showed their seemingly lifeless bodies in piles on the ground.

The British-based Observatory earlier said around 120 captive government troops from Tabqa were killed near the base.

There was no immediate comment from the Syrian government.

The Islamic State group uses violence and images of violence, from mass-killings to beheadings, to instill fear in its opponents and win recruits as it seeks to expand a proto-state it has carved out in Syria and Iraq.

 

TIME indycar

Aleshin Hospitalized After Fontana IndyCar Crash

Mikhail Aleshin
Mikhail Aleshin of Russia drives on track during practice for the IndyCar Honda Indy 200 race at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio, on Aug. 2, 2014 Tom E. Puskar—AP

Rookie IndyCar driver Mikhail Aleshin was hospitalized in serious but stable condition on Friday night

(FONTANA, Calif.) — Rookie IndyCar driver Mikhail Aleshin was hospitalized in serious but stable condition Friday night after a frightening crash in the final practice session for the series season finale.

Aleshin was taken away from the Fontana track in an ambulance and airlifted to nearby Loma Linda University Medical Center. The Russian driver has broken ribs and a broken right collarbone along with a concussion and chest injuries, an IndyCar spokesperson said.

At least three drivers played a role in the crash in Turn 4, which had a gaping hole in the catch fencing and a wheel wrapped in the fence after Aleshin’s car violently flew up against it.

Aleshin, who drives for Sam Schmidt, spun when he went below the white line in the turn. He slid back up the track and collided with Charlie Kimball in a shower of sparks and smoke, sending Aleshin’s car flying into the catch fence while spinning.

Kimball improbably escaped serious injury, walking away from his ravaged car. Debris was strewn all over the track as safety personnel gathered around the wreck of Aleshin, who was removed on a stretcher.

Aleshin is the first Russian driver in IndyCar history, joining a team with title contender Simon Pagenaud this year after a career in open-wheel racing in Europe. He is 15th in the overall points standings with seven top-10 finishes this season, including a career-best fifth-place finish at the Grand Prix of Indianapolis in May.

The 27-year-old Aleshin also had several run-ins with Sebastien Bourdais earlier in the season, and he was involved in an unusual crash with Juan Pablo Montoya in Toronto.

Montoya was stalled in a tire barrier when Aleshin spun into the back of his car. Aleshin then slid under Montoya, leaving tire marks on Aleshin’s helmet and requiring a tow truck to lift Montoya’s car off Aleshin.

The two-mile Fontana track is a fast, high-banked oval with well-worn, bumpy and occasionally dusty asphalt, providing a challenge even for veteran drivers. Helio Castroneves won the pole for Saturday’s race with an average speed of more than 218 mph in his qualifying lap Friday, when temperatures reached 100 degrees in Fontana.

Although IndyCar racing on ovals can be spectacular, the risk factor is high. Dan Wheldon was killed in a 15-car accident in the 2011 season finale at Las Vegas, another high-banked oval.

The IndyCar series finale is scheduled for Saturday night. Aleshin was eighth in qualifying earlier Friday, easily the best finish by a rookie.

TIME Lesotho

Lesotho Military Says It Has Disarmed Police

Observers fear another coup

(JOHANNESBURG) — Lesotho’s military seized two police stations Saturday as gunfire rang out in the capital of the mountainous kingdom. The country’s prime minister said the actions amounted to a coup, though an army spokesman said the soldiers were only securing the country.

Political tensions have been high in the tiny kingdom that is completely surrounded by South Africa since June when there was a power struggle after Prime Minister Thomas Thabane suspended parliament to dodge a vote of no confidence. At the time, South Africa warned against simmering conflict.

“We are calling on the commander of the armed forces to return to the barracks and allow the democratically elected government to return to its business,” Clayson Monyela, spokesman for South Africa’s Department of International Relations and Co-operations, said Saturday.

He said actions by Lesotho’s military bore the hallmarks of a coup d’etat, but added, “The situation in Lesotho is still unfolding. No one has claimed to take over government … so we are monitoring that … our interest is to see it resolved through peaceful means.”

The military’s actions forced the prime minister to go into hiding, said Monyela. However, the prime minister had earlier told BBC that he is in South Africa visiting his daughter and would return to Lesotho Sunday. Calls to the prime minister’s spokesman and office were not answered.

Monyela said the 15-nation regional group, the Southern African Development Community, will intervene and they are trying to bring all players to the table for talks at this time.

When asked if South Africa would send military, Monyela said that wasn’t under consideration at this time.

“We prefer peaceful resolution to any crisis, particularly if it’s a political crisis … Such things become last resorts,” he said.

Lesotho’s defense forces spokesman Ntlele Ntoi played down the events.

“As we speak now, the situation in Lesotho, in the capital, is back to normal. It’s business as usual,” he told The Associated Press.

The military had gathered intelligence that the police were going to arm factions participating in a demonstration planned for Monday by one of the coalition parties, the Lesotho Congress for Democracy, he said. The military disarmed police in the capital, Maseru, to avoid bloodshed, Ntoi said.

An exchange of gunfire between the military, youths and police injured one soldier and four policemen, he said.

“The arms have been removed and they are in military custody. The military has returned to the barracks,” Ntoi said, denying reports of any coup attempt. “We are not in a position now or in the future to stage a coup. All we do is to carry out our mandate to secure our country and property.”

He said that the military did not know if the march will still take place Monday.

Ntoi said he had heard reports that radio stations had been down for a few hours. He said he could not say if they were down for technical problems or because of the military.

But Lesotho’s Prime Minister Thomas Thabane told South Africa’s eNCA television that the military actions amounted to a coup. He said he did not give permission for the action and that something like this should not be happening in a democratic state. He is going to meet with South African officials, and expects South Africa to help his government restore law and order, he said.

Bernard Ntlhoaea, a guard at the U.S. Embassy in Maseru, confirmed that gunfire was heard in the capital early Saturday.

“The military has been moving around from 3 o’clock in the morning, occupying police stations in Maseru and moving around to other districts,” said Ntlhoaea. He said the military was armed and he saw at least one armored personnel carrier on the streets.

The landlocked country’s first coalition government was formed in 2012 after competitive elections that ousted the 14-year incumbent Pakalitha Mosisili, who peacefully stepped down from power. The coalition has since been fragile.

Lesotho has seen unrest in its past and has seen a number of military coups since gaining independence from Britain in 1966.

The constitutional government was restored in 1993, after seven years of military rule. Violent protests and a military mutiny in 1998 came after a contentious election prompted intervention by South African military forces. Political stability returned after constitutional reforms, and parliamentary elections were peacefully held in 2002.

South Africa’s Democratic Alliance Parliamentary leader Mmusi Maimane said “today’s events come after heightened political tensions in June this year, which led to the country’s parliament being suspended, as a result of a breakdown of the coalition government.”

Lesotho’s military seized two police stations Saturday as gunfire rang out in the capital of the mountainous kingdom. The country’s prime minister said the actions amounted to a coup, though an army spokesman said the soldiers were only securing the country.

Political tensions have been high in the tiny kingdom that is completely surrounded by South Africa since June when there was a power struggle after Prime Minister Thomas Thabane suspended parliament to dodge a vote of no confidence. At the time, South Africa warned against simmering conflict.

“We are calling on the commander of the armed forces to return to the barracks and allow the democratically elected government to return to its business,” Clayson Monyela, spokesman for South Africa’s Department of International Relations and Co-operations, said Saturday.

He said actions by Lesotho’s military bore the hallmarks of a coup d’etat, but added, “The situation inLesotho is still unfolding. No one has claimed to take over government … so we are monitoring that … our interest is to see it resolved through peaceful means.”

The military’s actions forced the prime minister to go into hiding, said Monyela. However, the prime minister had earlier told BBC that he is in South Africa visiting his daughter and would return to LesothoSunday. Calls to the prime minister’s spokesman and office were not answered.

Monyela said the 15-nation regional group, the Southern African Development Community, will intervene and they are trying to bring all players to the table for talks at this time.

When asked if South Africa would send military, Monyela said that wasn’t under consideration at this time.

“We prefer peaceful resolution to any crisis, particularly if it’s a political crisis … Such things become last resorts,” he said.

Lesotho’s defense forces spokesman Ntlele Ntoi played down the events.

“As we speak now, the situation in Lesotho, in the capital, is back to normal. It’s business as usual,” he told The Associated Press.

The military had gathered intelligence that the police were going to arm factions participating in a demonstration planned for Monday by one of the coalition parties, the Lesotho Congress for Democracy, he said. The military disarmed police in the capital, Maseru, to avoid bloodshed, Ntoi said.

An exchange of gunfire between the military, youths and police injured one soldier and four policemen, he said.

“The arms have been removed and they are in military custody. The military has returned to the barracks,” Ntoi said, denying reports of any coup attempt. “We are not in a position now or in the future to stage a coup. All we do is to carry out our mandate to secure our country and property.”

He said that the military did not know if the march will still take place Monday.

Ntoi said he had heard reports that radio stations had been down for a few hours. He said he could not say if they were down for technical problems or because of the military.

But Lesotho’s Prime Minister Thomas Thabane told South Africa’s eNCA television that the military actions amounted to a coup. He said he did not give permission for the action and that something like this should not be happening in a democratic state. He is going to meet with South African officials, and expects South Africa to help his government restore law and order, he said.

Bernard Ntlhoaea, a guard at the U.S. Embassy in Maseru, confirmed that gunfire was heard in the capital early Saturday.

“The military has been moving around from 3 o’clock in the morning, occupying police stations in Maseru and moving around to other districts,” said Ntlhoaea. He said the military was armed and he saw at least one armored personnel carrier on the streets.

The landlocked country’s first coalition government was formed in 2012 after competitive elections that ousted the 14-year incumbent Pakalitha Mosisili, who peacefully stepped down from power. The coalition has since been fragile.

Lesotho has seen unrest in its past and has seen a number of military coups since gaining independence from Britain in 1966.

The constitutional government was restored in 1993, after seven years of military rule. Violent protests and a military mutiny in 1998 came after a contentious election prompted intervention by South African military forces. Political stability returned after constitutional reforms, and parliamentary elections were peacefully held in 2002.

South Africa’s Democratic Alliance Parliamentary leader Mmusi Maimane said “today’s events come after heightened political tensions in June this year, which led to the country’s parliament being suspended, as a result of a breakdown of the coalition government.”

TIME

Federal Judge Halts Key Part of Texas Abortion Law

Abortion rights activists protest outside a U.S. federal court in Austin
Abortion rights activists protest outside a U.S. federal court in Austin, Aug. 4, 2014. Jon Herskovitz—Reuters

(AUSTIN, Texas) — A federal judge Friday threw out new Texas abortion restrictions that would have effectively closed more than a dozen clinics in the state.

U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel sided with clinics that sued over one of the most disputed measures of a sweeping anti-abortion bill signed by Republican Gov. Rick Perry in 2013. The ruling stops new restrictions that would have left seven abortion facilities in Texas by Sept. 1. There are currently 19 abortion providers in the state, according to groups challenging the law.

“The overall effect of the provisions is to create an impermissible obstacle as applied to all women seeking a previability abortion,” Yeakel wrote in his 21-page ruling.

The trial in Texas was the latest battle over tough new abortion restrictions sweeping across the U.S. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, a Republican who is the favorite to become governor next year, was expected to appeal.

The law would have required abortion facilities in Texas to meet hospital-level operating standards, which supporters say will protect women’s health.

Clinics called it a backdoor effort to outlaw abortions, which has been a constitutional right since the Roe v. Wade ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1973.

The more stringent Texas requirements — such as mandatory operating rooms and air filtration systems — would have effectively shuttered 18 licensed abortion clinics in Texas. Some already no longer offer abortions after another part of the 2013 bill required doctors to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals.

Similar laws about admitting privileges have been blocked by federal courts in Mississippi, Kansas and Wisconsin.

Attorneys for the state denied that women would be burdened by fewer abortion facilities, saying nearly 9 in 10 women in Texas would still live within 150 miles of a provider. Critics say that still leaves nearly a million Texas women embarking on drives longer than three hours to get an abortion.

Opposition to the Texas law was so visible that Democrat Wendy Davis launched her campaign for governor behind the celebrity she achieved through a nearly 13-hour filibuster last summer that temporarily blocked the bill in the state Senate.

Her opponent in November is Abbott.

TIME

49ers Linebacker Aldon Smith Suspended by NFL

(SANTA CLARA, Calif.) — San Francisco 49ers linebacker Aldon Smith has been suspended for nine games by the NFL after a series of off-field legal issues.

A statement Friday from the league said Smith had violated the NFL’s substance abuse and personal conduct policies.

Smith won’t be eligible to return until Nov. 10, the day after the 49ers’ game against the New Orleans Saints.

“Our organization has known this decision would come and we have prepared for it as a team,” 49ers general manager Trent Baalke said in a statement. “Aldon has taken responsibility for his actions and has continued to show growth personally and professionally. We will continue to support him, but it is time to put this matter behind us and focus on the season ahead.”

The 24-year-old Smith, one of the NFL’s top pass rushers, missed five games last season to undergo treatment at an in-patient facility following his DUI arrest Sept. 20.

Just before training camp began last month, the 24-year-old Smith was sentenced to serve three years of probation and to spend 11 days with a work crew after he pleaded no contest to drunken driving and weapons charges.

He has repeatedly said he has been sober since his DUI arrest last September. Smith played in a 27-7 home loss to the Colts on Sept. 22, two days after he was arrested and jailed on suspicion of DUI and marijuana possession. After the game, he publicly apologized for his behavior and later announced he would leave for treatment.

While the Niners went on a five-game winning streak without him, Smith’s menacing presence was sorely missed. The team still picked up his 2015 contract option this spring.

In his latest run-in with the law, Smith was arrested April 13 at Los Angeles International Airport. Police said Smith was randomly selected for a secondary screening and became uncooperative with the process, telling a TSA agent that he had a bomb. No charges were filed.

In November, he pleaded not guilty to three felony counts of illegal possession of an assault weapon, stemming from a June 2012 party at his home. Investigators said several shots were fired, two partygoers were injured and Smith was stabbed. In the subsequent investigation, prosecutors say detectives found five unregistered, illegal weapons in Smith’s house.

Last season, Smith finished with 8 1/2 sacks and 34 tackles in 11 games with eight starts. He was initially worked back in slowly, but demonstrated he had stayed in shape while away.

Selected seventh overall in the 2011 draft out of Missouri, Smith had a franchise-record 19 1/2 sacks during the 2012 season for the 49ers, who lost to Baltimore in the Super Bowl after that season.

TIME

Stock Market Closes at Record High

The Standard & Poor’s 500 is ending the week at a record high after a day of quiet trading.

Chip maker Avago Technologies jumped nearly 8 percent after reporting earnings that beat analysts’ estimates.

The latest reports on the U.S. economy were mixed. Consumer sentiment improved in August, while spending fell and income growth slowed in July.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 rose six points, or 0.3 percent, to finish at 2,003.37, an all-time high, Friday. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 18 points, or 0.1 percent, to 17,098. The Nasdaq composite rose 22 points, or 0.5 percent, to 4,580.

Bond prices barely budged. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note held at 2.34 percent.

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