Calls are growing in South Carolina to remove the Confederate battle flag from the state Capitol grounds after last week’s mass shooting of nine African-American worshipers at the historic Emanuel AME Church. The flag has been the source of protests for decades, but a growing number of politicians are calling for its removal after photos showed the accused gunman, Dylann Roof, posing with the flag. On Monday, South Carolina Republican Governor Nikki Haley called on lawmakers to take down the flag.
South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley: “My hope is that by removing a symbol that divides us, we can move forward as a state in harmony, and we can honor the nine blessed souls who are now in heaven.”
We’ll go to South Carolina to hear from the Republican lawmaker who’s backing legislation to remove the flag, after headlines.
President Obama spoke openly about racism in the United States during a podcast with comedian Marc Maron published on Monday. In the interview, recorded two days after the Charleston massacre, Obama used the “N-word.”
President Obama: “Racism, we are not cured of, clearly. And it’s not just a matter of it not being polite to say 'nigger' in public. That’s not the measure of whether racism still exists or not. It’s not just a matter of overt discrimination. Societies don’t overnight completely erase everything that happened 200 to 300 years prior.”
We’ll talk more about Obama’s remarks after headlines.
The Pentagon has announced a U.S. airstrike in northern Iraq killed an operative with the self-proclaimed Islamic State. Ali Awni al-Harzi was labeled a person of interest in the 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, and was accused of recruiting North African fighters. He was apparently killed by a drone near Mosul last week.
In Syria, Kurdish forces have reportedly ousted the self-proclaimed Islamic State from a key military base north of the ISIL-held stronghold of Raqqa. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the Kurdish Popular Protection Units, backed by U.S.-led airstrikes, pushed ISIL militants “back to the gates of Raqqa.” It’s the second major Kurdish victory against ISIL in Syria in a week after forces retook the city of Tal Abyad on the border with Turkey.
In Afghanistan, government forces have reportedly retaken control of a key district near the northern city of Kunduz amid a renewed offensive by the Taliban. The apparent victory comes after Taliban militants attempted to storm the Afghan Parliament in Kabul Monday, setting off explosives and firing rockets in a siege which left six gunmen, a car bomber and at least two civilians dead. Dozens of people were wounded.
European creditors say a deal to prevent Greece from defaulting on its debts could be reached in the next 48 hours. Greece’s latest offer reportedly includes new taxes on businesses and the wealthy, and a pension reform plan which increases contributions and restricts early retirement but does not change the pension rate. European Council President Donald Tusk expressed support for the measures.
Donald Tusk: “The new Greek proposals to the three institutions are a positive step forward, according to the initial assessment of the institutions. They will be further assessed over the coming hours. Work must now proceed swiftly in the Eurogroup. Prime Minister Tsipras and the institutions will work together now so that the Eurogroup can achieve results on Wednesday evening that can be presented Thursday morning.”
German authorities have freed Al Jazeera journalist Ahmed Mansour after detaining him Saturday on an Egyptian arrest warrant over what Al Jazeera says are trumped-up charges. Mansour’s arrest drew international protests over Egypt’s crackdown on freedom of the press.
The death toll from a heat wave in Pakistan’s largest city, Karachi, has topped 400. Temperatures have reached as high as 113 degrees Fahrenheit, but rain is expected to bring relief soon.
In Santiago, Chile, authorities declared an environmental emergency for the first time in 16 years as a blanket of smog engulfed the city. After shuttering hundreds of businesses and forcing 1.7 million vehicles off the streets, officials ended the emergency order but kept some restrictions in place. The order has raised concerns about the health of soccer players taking part in the Copa America tournament in Santiago.
In the latest extreme weather in the United States, a series of tornadoes have torn through states across the Midwest. Baseball-sized hail was reported in Indiana. The storms left heavy damage but eased a record-setting heat wave.
The Obama administration has released what it calls one of the most comprehensive analyses to date on the impact of climate change. The Environmental Protection Agency found global action to address climate change could save tens of thousands of lives and hundreds of billions of dollars annually in the United States by the end of the century. The report comes as researchers at Stanford, Princeton and Berkeley have confirmed the world is entering its sixth mass extinction, fueled by climate change, with certain species disappearing at about 100 times the normal rate.
U.N. investigators have presented a long-awaited report on last summer’s Israeli assault on Gaza. The report found both Israel and Palestinian militant groups committed grave abuses which may amount to war crimes. Mary McGowan Davis, chair of the Commission of Inquiry, called for the international community to change policies on the use of explosive weapons.
Mary McGowan Davis: “The most that we can hope for out of this long and arduous process of inquiry is that we will push the ball of justice a little further down the field, particularly by calling on governments to stand up and join together to address the crying need for changes in policies regarding the use of explosive weapons with wide-area effects in densely populated urban areas like Gaza and, further, to hold accountable those who do not pay scrupulous attention to protecting the lives of civilians.”
The Pentagon has vowed to provide weapons, aircraft, intelligence and special operations forces for a new NATO rapid-response force to help European allies counter potential aggression from Russia. Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced the steps during a visit to Germany.
Ash Carter: “We do not seek a cold, let alone a hot, war with Russia. We do not seek to make Russia an enemy. But make no mistake: We will defend our allies, the rules-based international order and the positive future it affords us. We will stand up to Russia’s actions and their attempts to re-establish a Soviet-era sphere of influence. The United States will not let Russia drag us back to the past.”
The U.S. Senate is poised to vote today on whether to advance a bill allowing President Obama to push the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal through Congress with no amendments. If Republican supporters can garner 60 votes in favor of so-called trade promotion authority today, the measure will likely see final passage in the Senate Wednesday. Rallies across the country have urged Senate Democrats to reject the TPP.
New York City has reached a deal to end a lawsuit over abuses at Rikers Island jail. In an agreement with federal prosecutors and attorneys for injured prisoners, the city agreed to the appointment of a federal monitor, new requirements for reporting use of force by guards, new surveillance cameras and a pilot program for guards to wear body cameras. The reforms follow a scathing federal report over excessive force at Rikers Island jail.
The Supreme Court has made it easier for prisoners awaiting trial to sue guards for using excessive force. In a 5-4 ruling, the court ruled in favor of Michael Kingsley, a Wisconsin man who was awaiting trial on drug charges when guards removed him from his cell and shocked him with a stun gun for refusing to remove a sheet of paper covering a light fixture.
And Columbia University will divest from the private prison industry following 16 months of student protests, becoming the first university in the country to do so. Organizers of the Columbia Prison Divest campaign say they were notified Monday that Columbia’s Board of Trustees had decided to heed calls to divest from Corrections Corporation of America and G4S, and to ban reinvestment in private prison firms in the future.