Uber and Lyft might be coming back to Alaska. On Thursday, the Alaska senate passed Senate Bill 14, which allows those companies to operate in the state, with a vote of 14 to 5. The senate spent more than five hours debating the measure. Members of the Democratic minority expressed concern that the bill allows the state, as opposed to local municipalities, to make regulation decisions on the rideshare industry. To address these concerns the minority introduced 23 amendments to the bill, some of which were adopted; but Democrats still voted against it. Uber briefly existed in Alaska in 2014 but left after six months. The company, like Lyft, refers to its drivers as independent contractors and not employees. This led to a dispute with the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development, who were concerned that drivers wouldn’t have worker’s compensation insurance. Ultimately, Uber paid the Labor Department a fine of $77,925 and left the state in March 2015. If SB 14 clears the state House, it will pave the way for both Uber and Lyft to begin operating in the Alaska again.
On Friday, the American-led military coalition in Iraq confirmed that it was investigating reports that hundreds of civilians may have perished in recent American airstrikes on Mosul, the northern Iraqi city at the heart of the offensive to drive ISIS out of the country. Residents report the fatalities may be as high as 200. If true, the civilian death toll would rank among the highest in American air missions since the United States invaded Iraq in 2003. The sudden rise in reported civilian casualties has begun to raise questions about whether or not the observance of wartime rules of engagement is becoming lax under the Trump administration. On Friday, American military officials denied that there had been any change in how the US goes to war while admitting that American airstrikes had been stepped up lately in both Syria and Iraq in an effort to place pressure in the Islamic State. While American spokespeople say that they currently do not know who is responsible for the deaths, Iraqi officers tell a different story. Maj. Gen. Maan al-Saadi, a commander in the Iraqi military, has said that the deaths resulted from a coalition airstrike that his men called in to take out snipers perched on rooftops in a Mosul neighborhood. The general said his men were unaware the basements of the buildings were filled with civilians. Iraqi military sources have commented that it has become much easier to call in an airstrike since President Donald Trump took office.
The least free country in Europe is experiencing unrest. Police have arrested hundreds of protesters in Belarus and shut down the internet after thousands took to the streets of Minsk and other cities to voice their opposition to a “social parasites” tax on the unemployed. As of Saturday night, protesters were still attempting to protest in the streets of Minsk, Brest and Grodno where police deployed armored riot squads and water cannons to contain them. The protests represent the most marked expression of discontent since the Belarusian president, Alexander Lukashenko, announced the new tax two months ago. The announcement served as a flashpoint for a larger movement discontent with the lack of free elections, free press and the authoritarian government. President Lukashenko, who has ruled since 1994 and is frequently described as “Europe’s last dictator”, declared earlier this month that he would suspend the deadline for payment until his government has reviewed the policy, but protests against his style of rule — much of it a lasting remnant of Belarus’s time as Soviet member state — has only continued to grow.