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Islamic State Video Is Latest in Worldwide Propaganda War

The Islamic State’s media machine took to the web again on Tuesday with the release of a high-production Hollywood-style trailer for an upcoming movie entitled Flames of War.

The 52-second clip was issued in response to President Barack Obama’s vow to “degrade and ultimately destroy [the Islamic State],” and shows flames engulfing footage of the White House and Obama, as well as images of US forces in Iraq — despite Obama ruling out putting “boots on the ground” last week.

US Airstrikes Target the Islamic State’s Seized Syrian Oilfields

At least 19 people were killed on the third day of a US-led air campaign targeting the Islamic State in Syria. Strikes focused on one of the group’s main revenue streams — the region’s captured oil fields.

Activists say that the attacks, made by the US along with five Arab allies, led to the release at least 150 people from a prison in their powerbase of Raqqa in northern Syria, as the militant group feared more strikes, according to the Associated Press.

At least 14 militants were killed in the attacks, which hit four oil installations and three oil fields near the town of Mayadeen in the east of the country. This information came from the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), which gathers reports from a network of activists on the ground, and was confirmed by two local activist groups.

Historic California Rape Law Tells College Campuses: ‘Yes Means Yes’

California has enacted a historic law that forces the state’s colleges to adopt a policy of unambiguous, affirmative consent by students engaged in sexual activity.

State lawmakers approved the so-called “Yes Means Yes” law last month, and Governor Jerry Brown signed it Sunday. The state is the first to pass a law that makes affirmative consent central to school sexual assault policies.

“I don’t think there are words to describe how monumental this is for survivors of sexual assault — female, male or otherwise,” Savannah Badalich, a student at University of California, Los Angles (UCLA) and the founder of the group 7,000 in Solidarity, told VICE News.

The US Navy Is Developing ‘Drone Gunboats’ for Naval Warfare

Robots are no strangers to warfare nowadays. They are regularly used for dangerous battlefield jobs such as surveillance, explosives detection, and air strikes, and, as VICE News reported last week, they are now even used to hunt naval mines from the air. Their utility seemingly knows no bounds, and the US Navy has now revealed a plan that seemingly takes the technology even further into the future.

On Sunday, the Office of Naval Research (ONR) announced the addition of “drone gunboats” to the US military’s growing family of militarized robots. Developed using existing NASA technology, the robo-boats could be deployed within the year to protect bigger ships or to swarm an enemy with kamikaze-like coordinated attacks.

The program was partly prompted by the 2000 attack on the destroyer USS Cole by al Qaeda. In the attack, suicide bombers drove a boat laden with explosives into the hull of the guided-missile destroyer as it refueled in the Yemeni port of Aden, killing 17 US sailors.

Murder of Transgender Woman Raises Tensions in Philippines Over US Military Presence

A US Marine accused of killing a 26-year-old transgender Filipina woman was turned over to Philippine authorities by the US military on Wednesday in a case that has brought long-simmering tensions between the two countries to a boil.

Pfc. Joseph Scott Pemberton is accused of murdering Jennifer Laude, formerly known as Jeffrey, by drowning her in a motel bathroom toilet on October 11 after a bilateral training session near a former US naval base at Subic Bay, about 50 miles northwest of Manila.

The gruesome killing comes at a delicate moment for US-Philippine relations. There is political pressure in the Philippines for the former US colony to deny the US access to military bases.

Atheists Are Banned From Holding Public Office In Seven US States

If you’re an atheist and interested in becoming a city council member or a juror in Maryland, well you can forget it: the East Coast state is one of seven in the US, which thanks to long-standing provisions in their state constitution, prohibits those who don’t believe in God from holding public office.

Atheists are up in arms about the old-fashioned restriction, which also affects non-believers in Arkansas, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas, and are trying to get rid of the bans.

Rob Boston, director of communications for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, told VICE News that these laws are “outdated provisions from a more bigoted time” but that they send a worrying message to atheists and non-believers.

The Marijuana ‘Green Rush’ Is Worsening California’s Water Wars

California has been under a state of emergency since January because of dangerous drought conditions that currently affect over 99 per cent of the population and more than 37 million people.

Despite the fact that California has long been vulnerable to forest fires and water shortages, some suggest that a steady increase in cannabis grows since medical marijuana was legalized in the state in 1996 has had a significant impact on conditions. This has led to environmental crimes including water theft.

Scott Bauer of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife examined aerial photographs of four watersheds in northern California’s so-called Emerald Triangle, which contains the counties of Mendocino, Humboldt, and Trinity. He found that marijuana growing areas doubled between 2009 and 2012.

How the Ku Klux Klan Helped Republicans Win Voters in the US South

The Ku Klux Klan (KKK) had a lasting impact on the number of US Republican voters, even half a century after the white supremacist movement’s popularity and political impact peaked, according to a new study from academics at Yale, Brandeis, and Notre Dame universities.

Professors David Cunningham, Rory McVeigh, and Justin Farrell cite data from five presidential votes between 1960 and 2000 in the paper, published in the December issue of the American Sociological Review. Brandeis reported that it shows that KKK activity “played a significant role in shifting voters’ political party allegiance in the South in the 1960s — from Democratic to Republican — and it continued to influence voters’ activities 40 years later.”

The paper argues that supporters of radical social movements, such as the KKK, are more likely to vote or agree with the political agendas of mainstream parties that appear to share some — but not all — of the extremist views.

Facebook Tells the DEA That Fake Accounts and Covert Ops Are Not Welcome

Undercover police operations run the gamut from Miami Vice-style raids to phone tapping á la The Wire, but last week Facebook told law enforcement agencies that the social media site will not be an option for officers looking to carry out covert operations.

The company reprimanded the Drug Enforcement Administration for creating a fake profile using a real person’s information and personal photos to assist in an “undercover” sting investigation, saying that they found the activity “deeply troubling.”

Facebook’s chief security officer, Joe Sullivan, sent a letter to the agency on October 17 informing them that “the DEA’s deceptive actions violate the terms and policies that govern the use of the Facebook service and undermine the trust in the Facebook community.”

Bombing Japan: Necessity – or War Crime?

It’s been 70 years since the U.S. dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Were the nuclear bombings a wartime necessity – or serious war crimes against humanity?