Good morning, and happy Thursday. Here are some of the stories we're following today:
1. Obama announces airstrike strategy against ISIS
President Obama said he will authorize expanded airstrikes, including inside Syria, in order to combat the Islamic extremists who are storming through Syria and Iraq, and have killed two American journalists. “I have made it clear that we will hunt down terrorists who threaten our country, wherever they are,” Obama said during a prime-time address Wednesday from the White House. An additional 475 American military personnel will be deployed to help Iraqi and Kurdish forces with training and intelligence. Of those, 150 will be embedded with the Iraqi military, serving as advisers but not engaging in combat themselves, defense officials told NBC News. But the airstrikes are going to take a coalition of countries in the Mideast region, and it’s still unclear what will happen to Iraq and Syria after the airstrike campaign. Read more in NEWS.
2. Changes mark 9/11 ceremony 13 years later
Obama’s address came on the eve of the 13th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. At the hallowed ground in lower Manhattan, names of those killed will be read and moments of silence will be held at the times the hijacked airplanes ripped through the twin towers and the Pentagon. But for the first time, the National September 11 Museum — which includes gut-wrenching artifacts and graphic photos of the attacks — will be open on the anniversary. Fences around the memorial plaza have come down, integrating the sacred site more fully with the streets of Manhattan while completely opening it up to the public and camera-wielding tourists. Read more at NBC New York.
3. Pistorius trial: Track star didn’t intentionally kill girlfriend
The high-profile murder trial against South African sprinter Oscar Pistorius was winding down Thursday, as Judge Thokozile Masipa began delivering the much-anticipated verdict. Pistorius is accused of fatally shooting his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp last year in their apartment bathroom: He claims he mistook her for an intruder, but prosecutors say it was intentional. The verdict process could take hours — or even days — as Masipa must explain how she and two legal assessors reached a decision on each murder charge. While Masipa said Pistorius didn’t intentionally murder Steenkamp, he could still be convicted on other related charges. Read more in NEWS.
Pistorius has been visually emotional during the trial, at times retching into a bucket and sobbing loudly. Thursday was no different:
4. Former fed will investigate handling of Rice video
How much did NFL officials know about the video, and when did they know it? Those are some of the questions former FBI Director Robert Mueller will look into after the league announced Wednesday he’ll be leading an independent investigation into the infamous tape. The controversy began this week when fuller footage emerged showing Ravens running back Ray Rice knocking out his now-wife in a casino elevator in February. Rice had been suspended for two games over the initial reports of the incident, but the NFL moved to suspend him indefinitely after the full tape was leaked. But questions remain about whether the NFL did a thorough enough job looking into the matter — particularly after an Associated Press report Wednesday claims the video was first sent to the league’s offices in April. Read more at NBC SPORTS.
Calls for NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to resign have been getting louder, with the National Organization for Women saying the league has a problem with domestic violence against women:
5. Child-abuse probe preceded murder of 5 siblings
The South Carolina father accused of killing his five children and dumping their bodies in the Alabama woods was the center of a child-abuse investigation weeks earlier. But officials say there was “nothing to alarm them” of the sinister slayings to come. Timothy Ray Jones Jr., 32, faces five counts of murder in the shocking case that has authorities trying to unravel what would have led him to allegedly commit such brutality. “In all my years in law enforcement, I have never seen a case like this,” said Lewis McCarty, sheriff of Lexington County, South Carolina. Autopsies of the children will begin Thursday. Read more in NEWS.
6. Gmail not hacked — but change your password
Google says worries that their servers were hacked — and people’s passwords were shared online — are exaggerated. While some 5 million Gmail usernames and passwords ended up on a Russian bitcoin forum, those combinations were taken via phishing and hacking schemes over several years, Google said. About 2 percent of the combinations might actually work. Either way, the Internet giant said they would have already alerted users if their emails were compromised, locking down their accounts and requiring a password change — something that should be regularly done anyway. Read more in TECH.
… What’s trending today?
Taxis driven by women for women. That’s the idea behind SheRides, which is launching a fleet of 50 cars next week in New York City and will have an app for women to hail the cabs, according to The New York Times. To boot, the drivers will wear hot pink pashmina scarves. The idea, the company said, is to serve women who may feel uncomfortable being driven by a man.