The Obama administration is reportedly considering direct talks with Iran over ways to resolve the crisis in Iraq, where Sunni militants have continued to gain new ground. Over the weekend, militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, seized the northern town of Tal Afar. ISIS also claimed to have massacred 1,700 Shiite soldiers in Tikrit, but the number could not be verified. The United States has begun evacuating workers from its embassy in Baghdad. On Friday, President Obama ruled out sending U.S. ground troops back to Iraq.
President Obama: “We will not be sending U.S. troops back into combat in Iraq, but I have asked my national security team to prepare a range of other options that could help support Iraq security forces, and I’ll be reviewing those options in the days ahead.”
U.S. Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning has spoken out about the news in Iraq in a New York Times op-ed. Manning is serving a 35-year sentence for leaking classified information to WikiLeaks, including the “Collateral Murder” video showing a U.S. military helicopter strike in Iraq that killed two Reuters employees. In the op-ed, Manning criticizes the limits placed on reporters who embed with U.S. troops and describes an information gap between past news reports on the Iraq War and information she had access to as an intelligence analyst. “As Iraq erupts in civil war and America again contemplates intervention, that unfinished business should give new urgency to the question of how the United States military controlled the media coverage of its long involvement there and in Afghanistan,” Manning writes. “I believe that the current limits on press freedom and excessive government secrecy make it impossible for Americans to grasp fully what is happening in the wars we finance.”
In news from Kenya, at least 48 people have been killed in a small coastal town where gunmen attacked two hotels, a police station and a bank. Authorities blamed the attack on the al-Qaeda-linked Somali militant group al-Shabab, which has carried out a series of recent attacks in Kenya.
Pakistan has launched a major offensive in North Waziristan, near the border with Afghanistan, mobilizing tens of thousands of soldiers. On Sunday, the military bombarded the area with air strikes, saying it killed more than 100 militants. The accused mastermind of last week’s deadly attack on the Karachi airport was reportedly among the dead. The United States has long called for Pakistan to launch a major assault on North Waziristan, which has been a frequent target of U.S. drone strikes. The United States resumed strikes last week after a six-month pause, killing 14 people in a span of 12 hours.
In Libya, as many as 12 people have died in fighting after a renegade general launched a renewed assault on militants in Benghazi. Khalifa Haftar, who helped topple Muammar Gaddafi in a NATO-backed uprising, has been joined by a number of army units in his bid to root out Islamist militants. The violence marks the worst fighting in weeks and comes less than two weeks before Libya’s parliamentary elections.
Ukraine says Russia has cut off its gas supply amid a dispute over payment. Russia’s state-owned oil firm Gazprom had demanded upfront payments from Ukraine after it failed to repay debts. Gazprom said it would continue supplying gas to other countries in Europe. Tensions between Russia and Ukraine rose over the weekend as pro-Russian separatists shot down a Ukrainian military transport plane, killing 49 people on board. On Friday, the Obama administration accused Russia of sending tanks and other heavy weapons to the separatists, a move it called “unacceptable.”
In Brazil, protests are continuing around World Cup sites across the country as the tournament enters its fifth day. In the capital Brasília Sunday, a protester condemned the billions of dollars Brazil has spent on the event.
Thiago Avila, protest organizer: “Today we are here for health, education and public services. This is the cup of protests, and we are strong. Here we want to protest every day that there is a game. This is the first one, but we can say that we are not scared to go into the streets. The streets today are the most important place in the city, and going into the streets is the most important democratic exercise at the moment.”
Human rights groups such as Amnesty International have accused the local police of using excessive force against demonstrators. In a video taken by the Associated Press on Sunday, a police officer can be seen firing what appears to be a live pistol round at protesters near Maracanã Stadium in Rio de Janeiro. We’ll go directly to Maracanã Stadium for a report from Dave Zirin later in the broadcast.
Israeli forces have killed a Palestinian and rounded up 150 others, including the speaker of the Palestinian Parliament, as part of a massive hunt for three Israeli teens who went missing in the West Bank last week. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has accused the Palestinian group Hamas of kidnapping the teenagers. Israeli forces have flooded residential areas, searching homes and effectively sealing off the city of Hebron. Earlier today an Israeli soldier shot and killed a 20-year-old Palestinian near Ramallah, accusing him of throwing rocks. At a rally in Gaza City this morning, protesters, including Hamas legislator Mushir al-Masri, condemned Israel’s actions and voiced support for Palestinian hunger strikers in Israeli jails.
Mushir al-Masri: “The main reason behind the tension is the Israeli occupation, which did not respond to the demands of the hunger-striking prisoners who have been fasting for over 50 days. There are 5,000 prisoners facing slow death, who have spent long decades in the Zionist enemy’s jails. So the life of Zionists is not more sacred than the life of the over 5,000 prisoners in the enemy’s jails. We warn Israel against the consequences of any stupidities, including the violation of international law.”
The search for the Israeli teens comes a month after Israeli forces killed two Palestinian teenagers in the West Bank. An autopsy on one of the teens has confirmed he was killed by live bullets. Human Rights Watch has called the killings an “apparent war crime.”
Afghans went to the polls Saturday for the second and final round of voting in the runoff election to replace President Hamid Karzai. The head of the election commission said turnout topped seven million.
Ahmad Yousuf: “The estimated numbers of the participants in today’s election were more than seven million, which includes 38 percent of women and 62 percent of men turned out. Holding of a second round of presidential elections was a historic event in the history of our country. This election paves the ground for a democratic transition of the political process from one president to another.”
The leading candidate, Abdullah Abdullah, who survived a recent assassination attempt, has questioned the high turnout report and voiced concerns about fraud. Scattered attacks on election day left dozens of people dead, including more than 30 civilians. A roadside bomb attack killed 11 people in the north, including several election workers, while 11 men in a western province had their ink-dipped fingers chopped off by the Taliban as punishment for voting. Official election results are expected next month.
In Colombia, President Juan Manuel Santos has won re-election in a runoff. The election was seen as a referendum on the future of peace talks between Colombia and FARC rebels. President Santos launched the peace talks in 2012, while his opponent, Óscar Iván Zuluaga, had heavily criticized them. On Sunday, Santos vowed to forge ahead with the talks.
President Juan Manuel Santos: “It’s true that it won’t be easy. There are always obstacles. There are always enemies. During the campaign, many showed their skepticism regarding the possibility of achieving peace and fears that it will come at any price. We’ve received your message. It will not be, and I’ve always said that this will not be peace with impunity. This will be peace with justice.”
The U.S. military has tapped a two-star general to investigate the circumstances surrounding the disappearance of Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl in 2009. Bergdahl is undergoing medical treatment in Texas after returning to United States last week following five years in Taliban captivity. An Army psychologist said his reintegration in society could take time.
Col. Bradley Kamrowski-Poppen: “I would love to tell you it’s going to be a certain amount of time. The reality is, we don’t know. There is no average time of reintegration. Each case is unique and different. I think this case is particularly unique for its length, over five years. And again, we know that he did not have any contact with U.S. servicemembers during captivity. He did not have a chance to have fellowship overall. So, it will proceed at his pace.”
An earlier military report found Bergdahl likely walked away from his Army outpost in Afghanistan of his own free will, but stopped short of finding he planned to permanently desert. He had left assigned areas before and returned. Bergdahl has said he was beaten, tortured and locked in a cage after trying to escape his Taliban captors.
A new review has found the Obama administration is failing to inspect four out of 10 new higher-risk oil and gas wells. The Associated Press reports the Bureau of Land Management has been overwhelmed by a surge in fracking and has not been able to keep pace with inspecting high-priority wells, including those near national forests or fragile watersheds. A former BLM field officer called the situation “a disaster waiting to happen.”
A new report finds CEOs in the United States earn nearly 300 times what workers do. The Economic Policy Institute says average CEO pay topped $15 million last year. The study excluded Facebook because its CEO pay rate is so high it distorts the numbers; if Facebook is included, the average CEO pay rises to $25 million, and the CEO-to-worker pay ratio rises to more than 500-to-one. Over the past 35 years, CEO compensation has risen 937 percent.
The CEO of Goldman Sachs, Lloyd Blankfein, criticized income inequality last week during an appearance on ”CBS This Morning.”
Lloyd Blankfein: “Income inequality is a very destabilizing thing in the country. In other words, it’s responsible for the divisions in the country. The divisions could get wider. If you can’t legislate, you can’t deal with problems. You can’t deal with problems, you can’t drive growth, and you can’t drive the success of the country. It’s a very big issue, and it’s something that has to be dealt with. One of the ways of dealing with it is to make the pie grow. And people are better at making the pie grow, but I have to say, too much of the GDP over the last generation has gone to too few of the people.”
Lloyd Blankfein made $23 million last year, making him the highest-paid bank CEO in the United States.
Massachusetts is poised to approve an $11-an-hour minimum wage, the highest of any state in the country. The Massachusetts House is expected to approve the bill this week after it passed the state Senate, and Gov. Deval Patrick has signaled he will sign it. The bill would raise the current $8-an-hour minimum wage by a dollar each year until it reaches $11 in 2017. The move comes after the city of Seattle, Washington, made history earlier this month by approving the gradual phase-in of a $15-an-hour minimum wage.
The radio host Casey Kasem, best known for hosting the American Top 40 countdown and for being the voice of Shaggy on the cartoon show “Scooby-Doo,” has died at the age of 82. Beyond his radio work, Kasem was an Arab-American activist who championed a number of progressive causes, from veganism to fighting media stereotyping of Arabs. In the 1980s, Kasem was arrested at an anti-nuclear protest in Nevada and slept outside in Los Angeles to draw attention to homelessness. Kasem had suffered from Lewy body disease, a form of dementia. He died Sunday at a hospital in Washington.