In a new video released by the militant group Islamic State, American journalist Steven Sotloff appears to be killed by extremists associated with the group. U.S. officials are working to determine the video's authenticity.
In an effort to reduce the number of giant bluefin tuna killed by fishing fleets, the U.S. is putting out new rules about commercial fishing in the Gulf of Mexico and parts of the western Atlantic. The rules have special protections for giant bluefin — fish that have grown to 81 inches or more.
The new requirements were recently published by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, in a nearly 750 page amendment to its management plan. The agency hopes the changes will help rebuild the tuna population and improve data it gets from fishing vessels.
As NPR's Christopher Joyce reports for our Newscast unit, commercial fleets in the gulf cannot target giant bluefin tuna, whose numbers have fallen since the 1970s. The gulf is of crucial importance, as it is the fish's breeding ground.
"But fishing fleets can harvest other types of tuna and large fish using long-lines. These are lines loaded with hooks that float below the surface and can run 30 miles long. They often accidentally hook and kill giant bluefin tuna.
"The new rules will lower the allowable number of these accidental killings, called 'by-catch.' They also will require video cameras on fishing vessels to record full-time what's being caught. The rules cover long-line fishing in the Gulf and parts of the Atlantic coast."
The new rules were welcomed by the Pew Charitable Trusts' ocean conservation unit, with director Lee Crockett saying, "NOAA Fisheries deserves great praise for significantly increasing protections for bluefin while allowing fishing for yellowfin tuna and swordfish to continue."
The group also lists some of the things that sets the bluefin apart:
"They're as fast as racehorses, bring fishermen to their knees, and grow to the size of a small car. These 'superfish' make transoceanic migrations, can dive deeper than 4,000 feet, and live up to 40 years."
Mine-resistant ambush-protected troop carriers, known as MRAPs, were built to withstand bomb blasts, they can weigh nearly 20 tons, and many U.S. troops who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan are alive today because of them. But many of the vehicles are now considered military surplus. And thanks to a congressionally mandated Pentagon program, they're finding their way to hundreds of police and sheriff's departments.
The Pentagon gave John Thomas, sheriff of Page County, Va., a gigantic MRAP — meant to withstand roadside bombs in Iraq — in May.
As he drives through the Shenandoah Valley, the sheriff says he did give some thought to getting one. "When we looked at acquiring the MRAP, I looked very strongly at the public, political opinions and political climate," he says.
Thomas says he knew some might question why Page County needed an MRAP. "And i knew that there was a lot of anti-use of military equipment by police forces. But what most people don't understand is that an MRAP is nothing but a truck with a big bullet-proof box on it, there is no offensive — the ones that we get —there is no offensive capability."
And with all the guns out there in the hands of dangerous people his department sometimes has to deal with, Thomas says it's well worth having the added protection of a bullet-proof MRAP. "I've been shot myself. I have seen slugs go through the driver door of my car, through my radio console, and out the passenger door. And it sure would've been nice to have an armored vehicle between me and the individual that was shooting at me, rather than just having a car that was being shot up like a stick of butter."
About ten miles down a road from the county seat of Luray, where the sheriff has his headquarters, stands a landfill. On it, is a large metal shed that houses Page County's hulking, desert-beige MRAP.
A tag on the front of the 39,000-pound MRAP says the vehicle's worth $733,000 — but all Page County had to pay was the cost of shipping it from a refurbishing plant in Texas. Sheriff Thomas says for this rural county's 25,000 inhabitants, it was a good deal.
"Is it overkill? Yeah, it is. I mean, for our use, it's more armor than we need. But, it's free," he says.
A fat exhaust pipe belches diesel smoke when a sheriff's deputy starts up the vehicle. The sheriff says since the day it arrived, it has not been out on the road — and it won't be until some of his deputies get trained to drive it and the passenger hold is modified to carry stretchers for search and rescue missions.
"We want to get this vehicle fully outfitted to show the public what it can actually do, besides just being some type of big, military-looking vehicle. One thing we're not going to do is paint it black," Thomas says.
What it's really for, Thomas says, is to give his officers better and safer access to situations they respond to — whether it's elderly people stranded in a flooded hollow, a school shooting, or a raid on a rural methamphetamine lab. The sheriff says although he informed the county supervisor of plans to acquire the MRAP, no public hearings were held.
"Now if people have questions about it, I offer myself anytime they want and if the public would like to discuss it, I'd be more than happy to discuss it," he says.
At a national level, images from Ferguson, Mo. of rifle-toting police using armored vehicles has raised a lot of questions about why the Pentagon is handing over MRAPs and other war material to local law enforcement:
"It certainly does seem to be a case of overkill," says Kara Dansky of the American Civil Liberties Union. She says law enforcement officials are getting weaponry they never would have otherwise acquired. "We think that local governments can and should demand public hearings when local police want to apply to the Pentagon to receive military equipment."
Over the past year, the Pentagon's given away more than 600 MRAPs. In June, the sheriff of Bergen County, N.J. requested two MRAPs.
That angered the top executive of Bergen County, Kathleen Donovan. "Thank God we don't have mines on the streets of Bergen County. And so so why do we need an MRAP? It's not a rescue vehicle, as portrayed by some, it's the wrong message to send to all of our communities and we're a very diverse county. There's just no reason for it, and nobody can figure out why we should have it."
Bergen County sheriff Michael Saudino now says he won't use the MRAPs until the U.S. and New Jersey attorneys general review the military surplus program.
"I just felt that I would take a step back, you know, before putting this thing into service and see what their suggestions are. It's not going to stop me from obtaining the vehicle."
Several law enforcement agencies that have received MRAPs are going further, though — they're sending theirs back to the Pentagon.
Another American missionary doctor has tested positive for Ebola in Monrovia, Liberia. He is the third American health care worker to contract the virus.
The name of the doctor, who worked for the Christian aid group SIM, has not been released. But the group said in a statement that he did not treat Ebola patients. Instead, he saw obstetrics patients at the organization's main ELWA hospital, which is separate from its Ebola isolation unit. How he became infected is unknown.
The doctor isolated himself at the onset of symptoms and is currently being treated at the isolation facility, according to the group. They added that he is "doing well and is in good spirits."
"My heart was deeply saddened, but my faith was not shaken, when I learned another of our missionary doctors contracted Ebola," said Bruce Johnson, president of SIM USA, in the statement. SIM was founded in 1893 as the Sudan Interior Mission; the group has since expanded its scope and adopted the slogan "Serving In Mission."
SIM will hold a press conference Wednesday at its Charlotte, N.C., headquarters to provide more details.
The new case comes less than two weeks after the first American patients were discharged Ebola-free from a hospital in Atlanta. Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol, who were working with Samaritan's Purse and SIM in Monrovia, had each been given an experimental Ebola drug during their hospitalization.
The current outbreak is the largest since the virus's discovery in 1976, with cases in Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Nigeria and, as of last week, Senegal. So far, there are more than 3,000 cases and 1,500 deaths, according to the World Health Organization, which also said the numbers are vastly underestimated.
The epidemic has taken what WHO calls an "unprecedented" toll on Africa's health workers, infecting nearly 260 and killing more than 100 to date.