President Obama has confirmed a U.S. drone strike in Pakistan killed the leader of the Afghan Taliban. In a statement, Obama called the death of Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour "an important milestone." Speaking earlier today in Hanoi as part of his visit to Vietnam, Obama denied the killing marked a shift in the U.S. role in Afghanistan.
President Barack Obama: "This does not represent a shift in our approach. We are not re-entering the day-to-day combat operations that are currently being conducted by Afghan security forces. Our job is to help Afghanistan secure in its own country, not to have our men and women in uniform engage in that fight for them."
Prior to the war in Afghanistan, the Vietnam War was the longest war in U.S. history. As part of his visit to Vietnam, Obama announced the end of one of the last vestiges of the Vietnam War: a decades-old ban on the sale of lethal military equipment to Vietnam.
President Barack Obama: "I can also announce that the United States is fully lifting the ban on the sale of military equipment to Vietnam that has been in place for some 50 years. As with all our defense partners, sales will need to still meet strict requirements, including those related to human rights. But this change will ensure that Vietnam has access to the equipment it needs to defend itself, and removes a lingering vestige of the Cold War."
This Friday, Obama will visit the Japanese city of Hiroshima, becoming the first sitting U.S. president to visit the city where the U.S. dropped a nuclear bomb toward the end of World War II. Obama will not apologize for the nuclear bombing, which killed 140,000 people and seriously wounded another 100,000.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi has announced the launch of a major operation to retake the city of Fallujah from ISIS. Al Jazeera reports heavy shelling in the area has killed six civilians. Fallujah became the first Iraqi city conquered by ISIS in January 2014. A decade earlier, after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the U.S. push to recapture Fallujah involved the extensive use of depleted uranium and white phosphorus, leaving a legacy of birth defects that continues today.
In Syria, a series of explosions have killed scores of people in areas controlled by the Syrian regime which also host Russian forces. ISIS has claimed responsibility for today’s attacks in the coastal cities of Jableh and Tartus. State media said at least 78 people were killed, while monitoring groups put the toll at more than 100.
Here in the United States, tensions continue between Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders and the party establishment. Sanders has announced his support for Tim Canova, who is challenging the Florida congressional seat of Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz. In a CNN interview with Jake Tapper, Sanders also criticized the superdelegate system that he said "anointed" Hillary Clinton as the nominee.
Sen. Bernie Sanders: "The point that I was making is there’s something absurd when I get 46 percent of the delegates that come from real contests, real elections, and 7 percent of the superdelegates. And the point that I made a few minutes after that is that some 400 of Hillary Clinton’s superdelegates came on board her campaign before anybody else announced."
Jake Tapper: "Absolutely true."
Sen. Bernie Sanders: "It was an anointment."
Jake Tapper: "Yeah"
Sen. Bernie Sanders: "OK. And that is bad for the process."
Update: BBC News reports Green Party-backed candidate Alexander Van der Bellen has won the election, defeating the far-right candidate, Norbert Hofer.
In Austria, a far-right candidate has deadlocked with a Green Party-backed candidate in the presidential election. The close race will decided by mail-in ballots. Norbert Hofer of the far-right Freedom Party has campaigned on an anti-migrant platform focused on the arrival of refugees. Far-right parties have seen a surge across the continent, but Hofer would be the first far-right head of state elected in Europe since 1945.
People took to the streets in more than 400 cities on six continents Saturday for a global action against the agribusiness giant Monsanto. Here in New York City, about 100 people marched against Monsanto’s use of the herbicide glyphosate, which some studies have shown may cause cancer.
Athena Manolopoulos: "My name is Athena, and I’m here at this protest because I think Monsanto is a terrible company in so many ways. It hurts the planet. It hurts animals. It hurts people. It hurts our bodies. And they really just only care about profit and having global control over our food supply. And they’re not open-minded about having their food labeled or tested properly. And they certainly don’t care about the people who are eating it, and they certainly don’t care about their farmers, who are being debt-trapped and committing suicide on a daily basis."
In Mexico, demonstrators said they did not want Monsanto’s genetically modified seeds to take root in the country because they threaten native crops.
Urbano Silvestre: "They (Monsanto) want every grain of corn in the world to have some of their chemical products. Why? So every time someone wants to sow corn, they have to ask permission and pay Monsanto to do it. And each time someone sells corn, they have to pay a commission to them."
Adelita San Vicente: "We believe that in Mexico, as the origin point of corn, the most important grain for humanity today, the sowing of Monsanto seeds should not be allowed at any point. We are the genetic reservoir of this grain, which is capable of resisting climate change and, after oil, is the most widely used product. And that status of Mexico as the origin point of corn should be preserved."
The World Meteorological Organization has called for all states to ratify and implement the Paris climate accords as high temperatures continue to smash global records. Spokesperson Clare Nullis said urgent action is needed after April broke yet another record.
Clare Nullis: "Another month, another global temperature record has been set. So, surprise, surprise, April set new records for record high temperatures both on land and the ocean. This is the 12th straight month that we’ve seen temperatures records broken. What’s particularly concerning is the margin at which these records are being broken. They’re not being broken; they’re being smashed, and on a fairly consistent basis."
Last Thursday marked India’s hottest day ever, as temperatures soared to 124 degrees Fahrenheit. Meanwhile in Bangladesh, a cyclone has slammed coastal areas, forcing half a million people to flee and killing at least 24. Scientists have warned such storms may be amplified by climate change.
Meanwhile, activists in Peekskill, New York, have staged the latest act of civil disobedience against the fossil fuel industry, which is the leading cause of climate change. Twenty-one people were arrested after forming a human chain to block construction of a pipeline that would carry high-pressure methane gas through residential communities near the Indian Point nuclear plant. Benjamin Shepard spoke shortly before he was arrested.
Benjamin Shepard: "We’re here to ask: If all of our elected representatives are on record as being against this pipeline, if the mayor of Peekskill is on record as being against the pipeline, if the people of Peekskill are on record as being against this pipeline, who’s calling the shots? The people or the corporations? And if the corporations won’t get out of the way, the people have to do it, are going to have to get in their way. And that’s why we’re here, to stop the machinery."
A Guantánamo prisoner held for 14 years without criminal trial has been cleared for release. U.S. forces captured the prisoner, known as Obaidullah, during a raid in Afghanistan in 2002 when he was 19. He was accused of planting bombs in a field near his home, although his attorneys said the bombs were relics of the war against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan which his family had buried in order to dispose of them. The Obama administration dismissed the charges against him in 2011, but he remained in prison. He has alleged torture during interrogation and was one of the prisoners who launched a hunger strike in 2013; news reports at the time said he had lost 36 pounds. Despite Obama’s pledge to close Guantánamo, there are now 80 prisoners there, 28 of them cleared to leave.
Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin has vetoed an unprecedented bill to make performing an abortion a felony punishable by up to three years in prison. Fallin, who has a long history of supporting anti-choice measures, vetoed the measure on a technicality, saying the language surrounding an exception to save the life of the pregnant person was too vague. The bill’s sponsor, Republican state Senator Nathan Dahm, has said he may try to override the governor’s veto.
And here in New York, farmworkers have passed through New York City as part of a 200-mile-long march to demand equal protection under labor laws. They say farmworkers face long hours and harsh working conditions but are exempt from many state and federal labor protections. The farmworkers are marching from Smithtown, Long Island, to the New York capital, Albany, upstate, to demand overtime pay, an optional day of rest each week and the right to bargain collectively. Heriberto González spoke outside City Hall in New York City.
Heriberto González: "I would like to say, each time you are eating, or each time you have something in your hands that you are going to eat, remember us, who do not have the rights that other workers have. And if you can, support us. We are going to be marching for another week and a few days. If you see us, it would be good if you support us by walking with us, maybe a couple of hours, one hour, for a day if you can. That would be very good."