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In China, hundreds of people are missing after a cruise ship carrying 458 people capsized in the Yangtze River. Five bodies have been recovered, and at least 14 people have been rescued, but the vast majority aboard remain unaccounted for. Rescuers have been tapping on the ship’s hull in a bid to locate survivors.
The self-proclaimed Islamic State has launched a new offensive in the northern Syrian province of Aleppo. The militants have pushed back an alliance which includes Western-backed rebels, capturing villages near the Turkish border and coming within 30 miles of a main border crossing between Turkey and Syria. As rebels appealed to the United States for airstrikes to counteract the assault, the U.S. Embassy in Syria accused the Syrian military of carrying out airstrikes to help ISIL’s advance. According to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, May marked the bloodiest month so far this year in Syria, with more than 6,650 people killed across the country.
In Iraq, suicide bombers from the self-proclaimed Islamic State rammed Humvees packed with explosives into a police base in Anbar province, killing at least 45 Iraqi police officers. The attack resembled the tactics ISIL used to take control of the city of Ramadi, deploying explosive-laden Humvees seized from Iraqi forces. Iraq’s prime minister has acknowledged security forces lost about 2,300 Humvees to ISIL when they retreated from Mosul last year. The Obama administration last year reportedly approved the sale of 1,000 machine-gun-equipped Humvees to Iraq at a cost of $579 million.
The White House has rejected the possibility of dropping charges against NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, despite supporting a bill to overhaul the bulk phone spying program he exposed. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest urged the Senate to pass the USA FREEDOM Act, which would store phone data in the hands of phone companies rather than the NSA. But Earnest refused to consider a shift in the administration’s stance on Snowden, who has asylum in Russia.
Josh Earnest: “The fact is that Mr. Snowden committed very serious crimes, and the U.S. government and the Department of Justice believe that he should face them. And that’s why we believe that Mr. Snowden should return to the United States, where he will face due process, and he’ll have the opportunity, if he returned to the United States, to make that case in a court of law.”
The bulk surveillance program expired at 12:01 a.m. Monday, after Kentucky Senator Rand Paul blocked efforts to extend it. The Senate is now considering the House-passed USA FREEDOM Act, which would reform bulk spying and reauthorize two other expired provisions of the PATRIOT Act.
Shiite Houthi rebels in Yemen have released a U.S. freelance journalist held captive for about two weeks. State Department spokesperson Marie Harf confirmed the release of Casey Coombs, who writes for The Intercept, BBC and Global Post.
Marie Harf: “U.S. citizen Casey Coombs has departed Yemen and has arrived safely in Muscat, Oman. He is in stable condition. The U.S. ambassador and a consular official met him at the airport upon his arrival and are providing all possible consular assistance.”
In a landmark religious discrimination case, the Supreme Court has ruled in favor of a Muslim woman rejected from a job for wearing a headscarf. Samantha Elauf was denied a job at an Abercrombie & Fitch store in Tulsa, Oklahoma, because a manager objected to her hijab, which violated the retailer’s rules on employee attire. In a ruling supported by eight of the nine Supreme Court Justices, Justice Antonin Scalia wrote, “An employer may not make an applicant’s religious practice, confirmed or otherwise, a factor in employment decisions.” Only Justice Clarence Thomas disagreed.
A new investigation by The Guardian has found African Americans are more than twice as likely as white people to be unarmed when they are killed in encounters with police. The Guardian found 102 of the 464 people killed in incidents with law enforcement this year were not carrying weapons — that amounts to just over one in five. But among African Americans, 32 percent of those killed by police were unarmed, compared to 25 percent of Latinos and 15 percent of whites. Meanwhile in Missouri, a report from the state Attorney General’s Office has shown police were 75 percent more likely to stop African-American than white drivers last year, and 73 percent more likely to search them. Yet African Americans who were searched were less likely than whites to possess anything illegal.
In Mexico, 10,000 people took to the streets of Mexico City to protest the neoliberal education reforms of President Enrique Peña Nieto. The protests came after the Mexican government announced it would suspend plans to implement teacher evaluations following mass opposition. Meanwhile, teachers’ union members ransacked election offices in southern Mexico, stealing and burning ballots, seizing 11 offices in the state of Oaxaca and blocking a storage facility of the state-run oil firm Pemex. The teachers have announced a strike to protest the education reforms and boycott Sunday’s midterm elections.
On the campaign trail in the United States, South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham has entered the presidential race. Graham launched his campaign Monday with a warning about “radical Islam … running wild.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham: “The world is exploding in terror and violence, but the biggest threat of all is the nuclear ambitions of the radical Islamists who control Iran. Ladies and gentlemen, there are no moderates in Iran running their government.”
Senator Lindsey Graham’s campaign launch comes just days after fellow Republican presidential hopeful Senator Rand Paul blamed Graham and other “hawks” in the GOP for the existence of the self-proclaimed Islamic State.
Another presumed Republican presidential hopeful, Jeb Bush, is the top speaker at a secretive meeting of coal company executives in Virginia, which wraps up today. According to the Center for Media and Democracy, the closed-door meeting included top Republican Party donors who each paid at least $7,500 to attend the three-day retreat.
In the latest sign of the revolving door between Wall Street banks and government institutions tasked with regulating them, the Securities and Exchange Commission has confirmed it just hired a managing director of Goldman Sachs to become its chief of staff. Before his stint at Goldman, Andrew “Buddy” Donohue led the SEC’s Investment Management Division during four years spanning the global financial crisis.
And the Olympic gold medalist and reality TV show star formerly known as Bruce Jenner has broken Internet records following the unveiling of a Vanity Fair cover story about her new identity as a woman. Caitlyn Jenner is the former step-parent of the Kardashian sisters. She announced her transition to living as a woman earlier this year, before unveiling her new name and appearance in Vanity Fair. After her first Twitter post Monday, Jenner broke a world record by garnering a million followers in just four hours; President Obama took a little under five hours to hit the same benchmark. Chase Strangio of the ACLU noted, “Telling [Caitlyn Jenner’s] story with care means using the right name and pronoun, but it also means highlighting the extent to which it is not the typical trans story. … For example, the facial feminization surgery that Caitlyn describes in Vanity Fair is almost universally excluded from [health insurance] coverage.” Jenner’s transition comes as a new U.N. report details “pervasive violent abuse” against LGBT people around the world, with hundreds of hate-related killings in the past few years.
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