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Iraqi forces have launched an offensive to reclaim Anbar province from the self-proclaimed Islamic State. Thousands of Iraqi troops and Shiite militias have been massing around the ISIL-held city of Ramadi in preparation for the assault. The announcement comes after U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter criticized the Iraqi forces’ retreat from Ramadi, telling CNN they lacked the will to fight.
Ashton Carter: “What apparently happened was that the Iraqi forces just showed no will to fight. They were not outnumbered. In fact, they vastly outnumbered the opposing force. And yet they failed to fight. They withdrew from the site. And that says to me, and I think to most of us, that we have an issue with the will of the Iraqis to fight ISIL and defend themselves.”
On Monday, Vice President Joe Biden spoke to Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to reaffirm U.S. support following Carter’s remarks.
In Yemen, forces loyal to exiled President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi have reclaimed the southern city of Dhale from Shiite Houthi rebels, marking their first major victory since Saudi Arabia began bombing the rebels in March. Saudi-led airstrikes pounded the Yemeni capital Sana’a over the weekend as officials announced U.N.-sponsored peace talks aimed at easing the crisis have been postponed indefinitely.
In Saudi Arabia, tens of thousands of people attended the mass funeral for 21 Shiites killed last week in a suicide bombing claimed by the self-proclaimed Islamic State. It was one of the deadliest attacks to hit Saudi Arabia in recent years.
East African leaders have planned a meeting for next Sunday to discuss the political crisis in Burundi, where a crackdown on protesters has killed at least 20 people. The protests erupted last month over President Pierre Nkurunziza’s bid for a third term in office. On Monday, the president’s opponents boycotted peace talks over the assassination of opposition leader Zedi Feruzi, who was shot dead by unknown gunmen. More than 100,000 people have fled the violence, many pouring into Tanzania, where 3,000 Burundian refugees have now been sickened in a cholera epidemic.
Ireland has become the first country in history to legalize same-sex marriage through a popular vote. Sixty-two percent of voters backed marriage equality in a resounding win. Supporters celebrated the victory in the traditionally conservative Catholic country, where homosexuality was only decriminalized in 1993.
Bear North: “We now live in a different country that includes everybody. You know, homosexuality was only legalized in 1993. We’ve come such a long way, and now we’re proud to stand up to the world and say we’re a wonderful country.”
In Spain, an anti-eviction activist has been elected mayor of Barcelona as the ruling People’s Party has suffered its worst local election results in more than 20 years. Ada Colau co-founded the anti-eviction group Platform for People Affected by Mortgages and was an active member of the Indignados, or 15-M Movement. She has vowed to fine banks with empty homes on their books, stop evictions, expand public housing, set a minimum monthly wage of $670, force utility companies to lower prices, and slash the mayoral salary. Colau’s party, Barcelona en Comú, a grassroots movement of leftist groups, which includes the anti-austerity Podemos party, won 11 of the city council’s 41 seats, meaning she will need to form alliances to govern. Colau celebrated the victory, which will also see her become the first woman mayor of Barcelona.
Ada Colau: “We are proud. This is not happening in Barcelona alone. This is a democratic revolution. It is unstoppable, and it is happening in Catalonia, Spain, and we hope to see it happen all over the south of Europe.”
In Madrid, Manuela Carmena of the Podemos-backed grassroots coalition Ahora Madrid has won a close second in the mayoral race but is still expected to become mayor by forming an alliance with the Socialists. Carmena is a retired judge and former member of Spain’s underground Communist Party who fought labor restrictions as an attorney under dictator Francisco Franco. The dual victories of Colau and Carmena put grassroots women in control of Spain’s two largest cities, as leftist coalitions are expected to take local governments in other key cities across Spain.
The Justice Department has reached an agreement with Cleveland over a pattern of what it calls “unreasonable and unnecessary” force by police. A probe last year found “chaotic and dangerous” abuse across hundreds of cases. This comes just days after an acquittal in a case that helped launch the probe. On Saturday, Officer Michael Brelo was found not guilty of manslaughter for the fatal shootings of two unarmed African Americans in their car. In November 2012, Brelo was one of 13 officers who fired 137 rounds at Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams after a chase which began when officers mistook a backfiring car for gunshots. Officer Brelo personally fired 49 shots, at least 15 of them at point-blank range through the windshield after he climbed onto the hood of the car. We’ll go to Cleveland for more after headlines.
The Obama administration’s authority to collect Americans’ phone records in bulk will likely expire next week after senators from both parties rejected attempts to extend it. First, the Republican-led Senate rejected a House-passed measure to curb bulk spying by keeping the records with phone companies instead of the government. The Senate then rejected a bid by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to extend the current bulk spying program for two months. Next, Republican Senator Rand Paul, Democratic Senator Ron Wyden and Democratic Senator Martin Heinrich shot down attempts by McConnell to extend the powers by as little as one day. The Senate adjourned and will reconvene May 31, the day before the program expires.
The Senate has approved a measure to give President Obama fast-track authority to negotiate the secretive Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, then introduce it to Congress with no amendments allowed. Critics, including a number of Democratic lawmakers, oppose the TPP, saying it will fuel inequality, kill jobs, and undermine health, environmental and financial regulations. The fast-track bill will head to the House next month, where it is expected to face a tougher battle.
In India, at least 800 people have reportedly died in a scorching heat wave, as temperatures climb toward 50 degrees Celsius, or 122 degrees Fahrenheit. The southern state of Andhra Pradesh is the worst hit, with more than 550 deaths in the past week. More than 230 people have died in neighboring Telangana state. In the capital New Delhi, major roads have melted.
Extreme weather in Texas, Oklahoma and across the border in Mexico has killed at least 17 people. In the Mexican border city of Ciudad Acuña, 13 people were killed when a tornado wrecked homes and slammed cars against buildings. In Texas and Oklahoma, storms and record-setting floods have killed at least four people while 12 remain missing. Ken Bell, emergency management coordinator for San Marcos, Texas, said the flooding is the worst the region has ever seen.
Ken Bell: “It’s the largest flood in the history of this region. So, it’s significant in its impact. It is different than any flood we’ve ever had.”
The heat wave and floods came as protests against the fossil fuel companies largely responsible for climate change faced protests across the United States. On Sunday in Santa Barbara, California, residents protested a major oil spill which has killed wildlife and soiled beaches. In Bellingham, Washington, two protesters suspended themselves from the anchor chain of a ship to oppose Shell’s plans to drill for oil in the Arctic. Chiara D’Angelo hung from the anchor of the Arctic Challenger from Friday until Monday morning, while fellow protester Matt Fuller joined her for 22 hours on Saturday and Sunday. Meanwhile, the University of Hawaii has voted to divest its $66 million endowment from fossil fuels, becoming the largest university to heed the growing divestment movement to date.
Thousands of people around the world took part in Saturday’s third annual march against the agribusiness giant Monsanto. The protests spanned six continents and 48 countries, with more than 450 actions planned. In Mexico City, hundreds protested Monsanto’s pesticides and genetically modified foods.
Diana Hoogesteger: “Most of our food, especially the basic grains, are the nourishment for all human beings, and there really is enough proof that these (genetically modified seeds) do a lot of damage and that the methods they use to grow them poison us with pesticides. These harm the Earth, kill biodiversity, and they are making us sick. So I think it is incredibly important, because it has to do with the people’s health, the health of the planet and the health of the environment that sustains our life.”
In California, farmers who hold powerful water rights have avoided mandatory cuts by agreeing to voluntarily limit their water use by 25 percent. The deal applies only to farmers with direct access to rivers or streams. California has already ordered municipalities to cut water use by up to 36 percent amid a historic drought, but agriculture accounts for 80 percent of water use.
In Peru, the government has imposed martial law, suspending civil liberties as it seeks to quell protests over a copper mine project in the southern region of Arequipa. Three protesters and one police officer have been killed as authorities cracked down on months-long protests which have successfully brought the Tia Maria mine project to a halt. Farmers and other residents say the mine will pollute their land and water. Meanwhile in another part of Peru, a protester has been killed amid a week-long strike by workers at a Chinese-operated iron mine. The union says Luis Quispe was shot dead by police.
In Mexico, authorities are facing questions about what they claim was a shootout between accused cartel members and federal forces in the state of Michoacán. Authorities have said 42 criminal suspects and one federal police officer were killed in a firefight as the forces sought to reclaim a ranch occupied by the cartel. But some victims’ relatives question the account, telling the Associated Press their loved ones did not belong to a gang and had gone to the ranch for work. Relatives said one body was missing an eye, another had its teeth knocked inward, and a third was shot in the top of the head.
A group of 30 women activists from around the world has crossed the border from North to South Korea in a call for peace. The group, which included feminist icon Gloria Steinem and Nobel laureates Mairead Maguire of Northern Ireland and Leymah Gbowee of Liberia, crossed the demilitarized zone by bus after South Korea opposed their plan to walk across. Mairead Maguire called for a permanent peace treaty between North and South Korea.
Mairead Maguire: “We come here as international women because we do not believe in wars. And we believe this is the longest war in history today, a cold war between brothers and sisters who have so much in common.”
The third largest cable TV provider in the United States, Charter Communications, has reached a deal to buy the second largest cable operator, Time Warner Cable, for $55 billion. By acquiring Time Warner and another smaller firm, Charter will reportedly quadruple its customer base to 24 million people. The move comes after an earlier bid by Comcast to buy Time Warner failed amid mass opposition.
And in New York, a protester who threw fake blood at New York City Police Commissioner Bill Bratton at a police brutality protest in November will perform 10 hours of community service under a deal with prosecutors. Diego Ibañez was initially charged with multiple felonies while Bratton said he hoped he would “be a professional resident of Rikers Island [jail].” Ibañez told Gothamist, “One of the things I was taught is that it’s really important to start making the invisible visible. The NYPD does a really good job of convincing the general public, through the mainstream media, that they don’t have blood on their hands. This was a way of showing that they do.”
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