Here are five of the top stories making headlines this afternoon:
Malaysia Airlines plane crashes in Eastern Ukraine. The 295 people aboard MH17 are feared dead after the plane went down over a Russian-controlled area in eastern Ukraine today. The crash is stoking tensions between the two nations as Ukrainian officials say the plane was shot down. The Russian separatists who control the region near the village of Grabovo, however, are denying responsibility for the crash. Reports from the scene are gruesome, with an Associated Press reporter saying they could count at least 22 bodies amid the charred rubble of the plane.
Israeli military launches ground operation in Gaza. After a brief ceasefire this morning, Israel announced it is moving forward with a ground military invasion in Gaza. For the past 10 days, Israel has used only airstrikes (one of which destroyed the home of Hamas leader Mahmoud Al-Zahar yesterday), while Hamas has lobbed rockets from within Gaza. At this time, there are no details on how many Israeli troops are involved.
Senator Mike Duffy faces 31 criminal charges. RCMP laid formal charges against the suspended senator this morning, including charges for fraud, breach of trust and bribery. The fraud and breach of trust charges relate to living and travel expenses Duffy claimed while working as a Conservative senator, as well as allegedly fraudulent contracts. The bribery charge is related to a $90,000 payment Duffy received from Stephen Harper’s former staffer Nigel Wright. Duffy’s first court appearance is scheduled for Sept. 16.
White House placed on lockdown due to unattended package. An unattended package on the north fence line of the White House prompted security to place the building under lockdown Thursday afternoon. A park across from the White House was also cleared, as those inside were ordered to remain in place.
Rob Ford promises he’s “sober as a judge.” Toronto’s mayor took questions from the press today, telling them he would not fail now that he’s back from a drug and alcohol rehabilitation program. ““I can assure you: Rob Ford is not going to fail,” said Rob Ford, speaking of himself in the third person. “Rob Ford is not going to touch alcohol. I have had my past. I am moving forward in a positive direction.” Also today, there are reports that Ford has split, at least partially, from his sobriety coach, a man named Bob Marier who trailed the mayor upon his return to city hall. While Marier will not be around Ford at all times, he’s still supporting Ford, the mayor’s brother, Doug Ford, told the Toronto Star.