Good morning, and happy Thursday. Here are some of the stories we're following today:
1. Ukraine president says Russian forces have invaded
After Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and Russian President Vladimir Putin met in person for the first time this week, insisting on a “roadmap” to peace for eastern Ukraine, tensions quickly escalated Thursday. Poroshenko said in a statement that Russian forces are mounting an invasion of the rebel-held region. One of the pro-Russian separatists even claims the Russian fighters there are choosing to come on their “vacation” time and are “fighting for [the rebels’] freedom,” Reuters reported. Meanwhile, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe held an emergency meeting about the Ukraine unrest. Read more in NEWS.
2. U.S. probing reports of another American jihadist killed
The State Department is looking into whether a second American fighting for the terror network ISIS was killed in Syria over the weekend. The possibility follows NBC News’ report that U.S. citizen Douglas McAuthur McCain died fighting for the Islamic militants. A Free Syrian Army source told NBC News the second American was killed in the same battle. The question for President Obama remains whether or not to seek lawmakers’ approval if the White House decides to strike ISIS targets in Syria. Read more in NEWS.
3. Mother of kidnapped journalist pleads for his release
Mom Shirley Sotloff put out a video Wednesday asking the head of ISIS to release her son, journalist Steve Sotloff, who’s been missing in Syria since a year ago. In the clip, Shirley Sotloff tells his captors that she has learned about Islam’s tenets, and that “no individual should be held responsible for the sins of others.” She also stressed that her son has no control over the U.S. government. ISIS has threatened to kill Sotloff if the U.S. doesn’t stop its airstrikes against its fighters in Iraq. Another journalist, James Foley, was shown beheaded in a video released last week. Read more in NEWS.
4. Ebola death toll rises as infection fears spread
The Ebola virus ravaging West Africa has killed more than 1,550 people, the World Health Organization said Thursday. As the number of deaths climbs since the beginning of the year, WHO also worries it could infect as many as 20,000 people. Countries have sealed their borders in a bid to stop the outbreak from spreading, and Nigeria was the latest to claim another death. Read more in HEALTH.
5. When is a child too young to shoot a gun?
The death of a shooting range instructor in Arizona at the hands of a 9-year-old girl who lost grip of an Uzi has raised questions about kids and guns. Gun safety advocates are hoping the tragedy will lead to another national discussion about children and at what age is appropriate for them to learn to shoot. “The majority of these tragedies can be prevented by responsible gun storage, which is why we hope this event spurs dialogue on the importance of gun safety and responsibility,” Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America told NBC News. Arizona, it turns out, is one of 21 states that has no laws restricting gun use by minors under 18, as long as there’s adult supervision. Read more in NEWS.
6. USC star Josh Shaw admits he lied about fall
Shaw told his coaches that he injured his ankles trying to save his 7-year-old nephew from drowning. The star cornerback said he jumped off a second-story balcony to rescue the boy — a story that won him admiration. But it was revealed Wednesday his heroic effort was bogus. “He let us all down. As I have said, nothing in his background led us to doubt him when he told us of his injuries, nor did anything after our initial vetting of his story,” USC football coach Steve Sarkisian said. Shaw has been suspended indefinitely. The question remains: Why did he lie? Read more in SPORTS.
… What’s trending today?
Goodbye to everything we thought we knew about Hello Kitty. The popular Japanese character is not actually a cat — or at least that’s what was initially reported in The Los Angeles Times this week.
An anthropologist putting together an exhibit of the famed “feline” said creator Sanrio was adamant that “she’s a cartoon character. She is a little girl. She is a friend. But she is not a cat. She’s never depicted on all fours.”
The website Kotaku challenged that anthropologist’s assertion, and called Sanrio’s Tokyo headquarters. A spokesperson told them: “Hello Kitty was done in the motif of a cat. It’s going too far to say that Hello Kitty is not a cat. Hello Kitty is a personification of a cat.”
So if she looks like a cat but doesn’t walk like a cat, that makes her a …