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A record-setting heat wave in the eastern United States is starting to ease after two weeks of scorching temperatures. The heat wave has been blamed for causing at least 74 deaths from the Midwest to the East Coast, including 18 people around Chicago and 13 people in Maryland. All-time temperature highs hit major cities, including Philadelphia, Washington, St. Louis, Indianapolis and Louisville, with more than 4,500 heat records broken overall. Dry conditions and a lack of rain are also devastating corn crops across the plains, which faces its worst drought in 25 years. Although eastern states will now see a respite, western states are facing a potential heat wave that could bring record highs later this week.
President Obama is expected to resume a long-running dispute with Republicans today over the Bush-era tax cuts that favored the wealthy and plunged the nation into further deficit. In a Rose Garden address, Obama will renew his call to limit the tax cut’s extension to those making $250,000 or less, and only for one year. Republicans are planning a vote in the coming weeks to extend the tax cuts for all income brackets, in addition to a separate vote on repealing Obama’s signature healthcare law.
At least 15 people have been killed in a U.S. drone strike inside Pakistan. The attack occurred late Friday in a northwestern province. Pakistani officials say the victims were suspected of being militants.
Friday’s attack was the first known U.S. drone strike in Pakistan since NATO resumed supply routes there last week. Over the weekend, thousands of people began a march from Lahore to Islamabad calling for the supply routes to be shut down again.
Samiul Haq: “The government has insulted parliament and the entire nation by re-opening the NATO supply. They have once again surrendered the country to the Americans, like the military dictator General Pervez Musharraf had done before them.”
The supply routes resumed after the United States apologized for the November air strike that killed 24 Pakistani troops. A recent poll shows anti-U.S. government sentiment has grown in Pakistan. According to the Pew Research Center, 74 percent of Pakistanis consider the United States to be an enemy, up 5 percent from a year ago.
Violence continues to rage in Afghanistan, where at least 35 people were reported dead in nationwide attacks on Sunday. At least 29 Afghans, mostly civilians, died in roadside bombings and militant attacks across the country. Meanwhile, seven NATO troops were killed in separate attacks, including six U.S. soldiers who died in a roadside bombing in eastern Afghanistan. NATO spokesperson Günter Katz announced the deaths.
Günter Katz: “I can confirm that yesterday seven American soldiers have been killed in southern Afghanistan. Anything else is still due to investigation, and I cannot give you any further details on this incident for the time being. Yesterday was a tough day for Afghan civilians, coalition and Afghan forces. A number of people were killed or injured due to a number of roadside bombs and conflicts.”
The latest violence comes after the Obama administration announced it would accord special ally status to Afghanistan. The symbolic move places Afghanistan in the same category as non-NATO U.S. allies in Asia and the Middle East, including Israel, Japan and Pakistan. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced the measure on the eve of a donors conference for Afghanistan in Tokyo.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: “I am pleased to announce today that President Obama has officially designated Afghanistan as a major non-NATO ally of the United States. We see this as a powerful symbol of our commitment to Afghanistan’s future.”
Mexico’s electoral board has confirmed the victory of PRI candidate Enrique Peña Nieto in last week’s presidential vote. Peña Nieto belongs to the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, the party that ruled Mexico from 1929 to 2000. His chief rival, the leftist Andrés Manuel López Obrador, has accused the PRI of electoral fraud and has vowed to challenge the results in court. On Saturday, tens of thousands of people marched in Mexico City to protest the election results and demand a government probe.
The United States has confirmed agents with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration have carried out another killing in Honduras. The DEA says two agents shot and killed a man who had made a “threatening gesture” after U.S. and Honduran agents converged on the site of a plane crash in eastern Honduras linked to drug smuggling. It was the second killing by U.S. agents inside Honduras in less than a month. In May, four civilians — including two pregnant women — were killed in a raid involving U.S. agents, although Honduran forces were said to have fired the fatal shots.
Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi has openly defied the country’s ruling military council and ordered the Egyptian parliament to resume its duties. Egypt’s Supreme Council of the Armed Forces dissolved parliament last month after Egypt’s top court ruled its election was unconstitutional. The news comes as Morsi received an invitation to visit President Obama at the White House in September. The invite followed Morsi’s first meeting with a top U.S. official, Deputy Secretary of State William Burns, since his election last month.
William Burns: “We are fully committed to working with Egypt’s president, its new government and all parties to sustain our partnership and advance our shared interest in a strong, democratic and economically vibrant Egypt that is a force for peace and stability in the region.”
Hundreds of Palestinians rallied in the occupied West Bank on Saturday to celebrate the designation of Bethlehem’s Church of Nativity as a World Heritage site. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, or UNESCO, declared parts of Bethlehem and the church to be endangered World Heritage sites late last month over the objections of Israel and the United States. The Palestinian Authority had sought the designation in a bid to speed up urgently needed repairs and help protect the city from Israeli occupation. Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad hailed the UNESCO recognition as a major milestone.
Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad: “It’s wonderful to have this celebration. It’s a major event. It’s a landmark event, indeed, I believe, on the path to freedom and statehood. This is the most significant event to have happened since the inception of the Palestinian Authority.”
Hundreds of protesters rallied in the New York area of the Hamptons over the weekend to protest three separate fundraisers for Republican candidate Mitt Romney. The events were held at the Hamptons mansions of Revlon chair Ronald Perelman, former U.S. Ambassador Clifford Sobel, and billionaire oil and chemical magnate David Koch.
Newly disclosed records show the nation’s wireless carriers have received a surge in law enforcement requests for customers’ cellphone records. In new reports to Congress, cellphone companies say they received 1.3 million inquiries from law enforcement agencies last year for information — including text messages and callers’ locations. Many carriers rejected demands they found to be legally suspect, and at least one carrier referred some requests to the FBI for potential improprieties. A large number of the requests were made without the backing of warrants or court orders.
George Zimmerman, the suspect in the Trayvon Martin murder case, has again been released from jail after posting $1 million bond. Zimmerman had initially been freed after posting bond in April but was sent back to jail last month for lying about his finances. In a fundraising appeal to raise money for the new bond requirements, Zimmerman’s attorney, Mark O’Mara, had asked for donations by calling on all supporters who also would have shot and killed Trayvon Martin, who was unarmed when Zimmerman took his life. O’Mara wrote in part: “For those who feel Mr. Zimmerman was justified in his actions, for those who feel they would do the same if they were in Mr. Zimmerman’s shoes … now is the time to show your support.”
Democratic Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts has become the first sitting member of Congress to have a same-sex wedding. On Saturday, Frank married his longtime partner Jim Ready in a ceremony in Massachusetts.
Democratic Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. of Illinois has taken a leave of absence to receive treatment for unspecified “physical and emotional ailments.” Jackson’s office says he has been institutionalized at an in-patient medical facility to receive extended care.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange remains holed up in the Ecuadorean embassy in London as he continues to avoid extradition to Sweden. Speaking to Democracy Now! over the weekend, Assange says he remains in good spirits and revealed that seven WikiLeaks staffers and volunteers are under grand jury investigation in the United States.