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Saturday, Sep 20th

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More details emerge in fight that witnesses say involved Palin family

Palin

As police continue investigations into a fight that broke out Saturday at a South Anchorage home, more details have emerged from a man who said he witnessed the brawl. Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who some say was involved, remains silent on the issue.

Eric Thompson spoke with ABC's "Good Morning America" on Friday. He was among the 70 guests at the birthday party, he said, where he watched the fight unfold.

After the interview, a report surfaced that Thompson, an employee of McKenna Bros. Paving, had been fired for speaking to the media. The party had been held in part for company owners Marc and Matthew McKenna, party guest Charles Fryer said Thursday.

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Gaza struggles to rebuild under blockade

Gaza rebuildingA U.N. representative urged Israel to lift a blockade around Gaza so humanitarian aid and construction materials can reach the region.

Robert Turner, United Nations Relief and Works Agency director of operations in Gaza, visited the region Thursday and said the strip has been left destitute by Israeli shelling over the course of a two-month conflict.

"We need resources. We need funding to rebuild for both the refugees and the non-refugee families in Gaza," he told Voice of America.

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Chemical reform bill faces uphill battle in Senate

UdallEfforts to come up with a new chemical regulation bill face an uphill battle in the Senate.

Over the summer, Sens. Tom Udall, D-N.M., and David Vitter of Louisiana, the top Republican on the Senate Environmental and Public Works Committee, provided a revised draft of their chemical regulation bill to committee chairwoman Barbara Boxer, who told The Associated Press this week that the draft still falls short.

The original bill had been panned by some environmental groups, such as Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, who assailed it as "phony reform," although the Environmental Defense Fund supported its introduction as a chance for an eventual breakthrough.

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U.S. Inspector: Billions in failed programs wasted in Afghanistan

billions wasted in AfghanistanThe top U.S. official for monitoring aid to Afghanistan painted a grim portrait of the country’s future Friday, saying it is riddled with corruption and graft.

With most Americans’ attention riveted on Iraq and Syria, John F. Sopko, the U.S. special inspector general for Afghanistan, said the United States’ unprecedented $120 billion reconstruction investment there is at risk.

“The country remains under assault by insurgents and is short of domestic revenue, plagued by corruption, afflicted by criminal elements involved in opium and smuggling, and struggling to execute the basic functions of government,” Sopko said in a speech at Georgetown University.

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Developer defends Walmart in rare forest

walmartThe developer behind a controversial Walmart shopping center, facing angry neighbors and environmentalists for the first time in public, vowed to make the project a paragon for building on environmentally sensitive land.

Peter Cummings, chairman of Palm Beach County-based Ram Realty Services, said that four preserves planned for about a third of the 137-acre development near Zoo Miami on endangered pine rockland may even help scientists understand the disappearing habitat.

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The Fracking Battle in Colorado Becomes a Fight for Democracy

Colorado frackingThe battle between citizens concerned about health, safety and the environment and corporate fossil fuel interests  continues to escalate in Colorado. Increasingly the battle is also about how much control citizens can exercise through the  democratic process over what goes on in their own communities.

In the latest skirmish in what’s looking like a long war, a group of organizations filed an appeal today to uphold a fracking ban passed by voters in Longmont, Colorado in 2012. It’s one of several such ballots measures passed in the state, including in Boulder, Lafayette and Fort Collins, despite  millions spent by the fossil fuel industry to defeat them.

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Syria rebels, Islamic State in 'non-aggression' pact near Damascus

Syrian rebelsSyrian rebels and jihadists from the Islamic State have agreed a non-aggression pact for the first time in a suburb of the capital Damascus, a monitoring group said on Friday.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the ceasefire deal was agreed between IS and moderate and Islamist rebels in Hajar al-Aswad, south of the capital.

Under the deal, "the two parties will respect a truce until a final solution is found and they promise not to attack each other because they consider the principal enemy to be the Nussayri regime."

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Cuba to send more than 160 health workers to fight Ebola in Africa

Cuba to send doctors to africaCuba's health ministry announced Friday it is sending more than 160 health workers to help stop the raging Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone, providing a much-needed injection of medical expertise in a country where health workers are in short supply.

World Health Organization chief Dr. Margaret Chan said the agency was extremely grateful for the help.

"If we are going to go to war with Ebola, we need the resources to fight," she said. "This will make a significant difference in Sierra Leone."

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Wisconsin photo-ID law gets appeals court blessing

Scott WalkerA federal appeals court on Friday gave Wisconsin the green light to implement its controversial photo ID law for this year's elections.

The order from a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, delivered just hours after oral arguments in the case, brought widespread criticism from voting rights groups that say the law will reduce turnout among poor and minority voters.

The panel, comprised of judges named by Republican presidents, didn't issue its decision on the state's appeal of a district judge's ruling that struck down the law. But it said the state could impose the new requirement in the meantime.

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