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Protests erupted in Athens Wednesday night as the Greek Parliament approved harsh new austerity measures in exchange for a third European bailout. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras won the parliamentary vote by a vote of 229 to 64. But 32 members of his own Syriza party voted against the deal, including former Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis. Greece’s deputy finance minister, Nadia Valavani, resigned in protest. Before the vote, Tspiras said he was being forced to accept the austerity measures even though he didn’t believe they would benefit the Greek economy.
Prime Minister Alexis Tspiras: “I will admit that the measures we are tabling are harsh, and I don’t agree with them. I don’t believe they will help the Greek economy, and I say so openly. But I also say that I must implement them. That is our difference.”
Meanwhile, tens of thousands of migrants are stranded on the Greek island of Lesbos, as the flood of people fleeing to southern Europe from Syria, Afghanistan and other war-torn regions continues. On Lesbos, the migrants are living in camps lacking basic sanitation and in two small detention centers that are currently at 10 times their capacity. The migrants have decried the conditions.
Syrian migrant Ahmed: “We run from the death, to the death. We find death at each step in our way. We ran from the death in our country to find death in the sea, and we ran from the death in the sea to find it here in the camp.”
The town officials, however, have said that they are unable to address the situation, especially given the country’s ongoing financial turmoil.
Mayor Spyros Galinos: “It’s as if the international community, the European Union, the Red Cross, the U.N., have given me a bomb to hold in my hands, and the fuse is burning very slowly, and I am desperately crying for help to blow out the fuse, but they are waiting for the bomb to explode before coming to our aid.”
President Obama has begun a campaign to defend the Iran nuclear deal ahead of an upcoming congressional vote. On Wednesday, Obama told reporters the deal was the only alternative to a nuclear arms race and more war in the Middle East.
President Obama: “With this deal, we have the possibility of peacefully resolving a major threat to regional and international security. Without a deal, we risk even more war in the Middle East, and other countries in the region would feel compelled to pursue their own nuclear programs, threatening a nuclear arms race in the most volatile region in the world.”
Israel continues to express opposition to the deal, arguing that a stronger Iran will threaten the region’s stability. The New York Times reports that Israel has been requesting between $4.2 billion to $4.5 billion of military aid from the United States each year for the next 10 years in talks that began prior to the Iran nuclear deal’s passage. Israel currently receives $3 billion a year in U.S. military aid.
In Afghanistan, Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar has issued an indirect statement of support for the peace talks with the Afghan government. In a statement to celebrate the festival of Eid al-Fitr, Omar said Islam does not prohibit “peaceful interaction” with one’s enemies. Meanwhile, The New York Times reports that in June the U.S. military doubled the intensity of its airstrikes against Afghanistan, launching a bombing campaign against militants with the self-proclaimed Islamic State in the eastern part of the country. This comes six months after the official end of the U.S. combat mission in Afghanistan.
Japan’s lower house of parliament has approved legislation to allow Japanese troops to fight abroad for the first time since World War II. The vote came one day after as many as 100,000 people gathered near the parliament to protest the move. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has pushed for the nation’s pacifist constitution to be rewritten.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe: “The security situation surrounding Japan is becoming increasingly challenging. With this in mind, it is an absolutely necessary legislation to protect the lives of the Japanese and also to prevent the country from going to war.”
Newly published National Security Agency documents leaked by Edward Snowden have revealed Israeli naval commandos were responsible for the mysterious 2008 assassination of a top aide to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Muhammad Suleiman was shot and killed by a sniper while he was holding a dinner party at his beachfront home in Tartus, Syria. Details of the assassination were included in a secret NSA document titled Manhunting Timeline published by The Intercept on Wednesday.
Puerto Rico missed a $93.7 million debt payment yesterday as the island’s debt crisis worsens. Puerto Rico Governor Alejandro García Padilla has repeatedly said the island must renegotiate its debt levels, telling The New York Times last month that the island was in a “death spiral.” Unlike U.S. states, Puerto Rico is not permitted to declare bankruptcy.
In other economic news, Bank of America has announced a profit of $5.32 billion for this past quarter — double the profit that the bank reported last year during this same time period. This past quarter’s profit amounts to about $59 million a day.
The Wall Street Journal is reporting the cost of police settlements for killings or misconduct has been soaring. Over the last five years, the 10 U.S. cities with the largest local police departments have paid a collective $1.4 billion in total settlements. More than a billion of that money went to cases involving brutality or wrongful imprisonment. New York City, with by far the largest police department, has paid out $600 million since 2010, the most settlements of any U.S. city.
In Mexico, the government has auctioned off the first oil and gas contracts to private companies in more than 80 years, following President Enrique Peña Nieto’s decision to open up the oil industry to foreign and private companies. At the first auction Wednesday, the Houston-based firm Talos Energy, British firm Premier Oil and the Mexican company Sierra Oil & Gas bought contracts to drill off the coast of the southern state of Veracruz.
In other energy news, newly released figures show more electricity was produced in the United States in April from natural gas than coal for the first time ever. Meanwhile, the Oklahoma Supreme Court has unanimously ruled that state residents can sue oil and gas companies for damage or injury caused by earthquakes, which have been linked to fracking. Before the fracking boom, the state had an average of one or two 3.0-magnitude earthquakes a year. Now, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, the state averages two earthquakes of that magnitude every single day.
In a new report, Global Witness accuses European timber companies of fueling the war in the Central African Republic by making lucrative deals with the country’s rebel militia groups. The rebel groups have been accused of war crimes in the ongoing conflict, which has killed thousands of people since it began in 2013 following a rebel coup.
In news from Capitol Hill, House Republicans have launched an investigation of Planned Parenthood. The investigation comes one day after anti-choice activists released a video that appears to show a Planned Parenthood employee telling activists posing as biotechnology representatives that the organization shares fetal tissue with researchers. Planned Parenthood said that it does not charge for the fetal tissue, which is consistent with the employee’s comments in the video. House Republicans have launched an investigation, claiming the organization is illegally selling the tissue for a profit.
Texas has been denying birth certificates to children born in the state if their parents are undocumented. Despite the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of citizenship to everyone born in the United States, Texas officials have reportedly been refusing to provide birth certificates to children whose mothers lack U.S. visas. The Texas Observer reports the refusals began last winter. A group of mothers recently filed a lawsuit against the practice.
In an update on a story we reported on Wednesday, the animal theme park SeaWorld has put an employee on leave after reports emerged that he had infiltrated the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. According to PETA, SeaWorld employee Paul McComb took part in numerous protests and attempted to incite violence. In one tweet, McComb — who called himself Thomas Jones — urged people to “grab pitchforks and torches.” SeaWorld announced it had also launched an investigation.
The first of seven FIFA officials being held in Switzerland on corruption charges has been extradited to the United States. This morning’s extradition follows the beginning of Senate hearings yesterday to investigate the corruption scandal that has thrown the world soccer governing body into turmoil. On Wednesday, senators questioned how much U.S. soccer officials knew about the corruption, and demanded an overhaul of the global organization. Senator Richard Blumenthal compared FIFA to the Mafia.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal: “The fact of the matter is that what has been revealed so far is a Mafia-style crime syndicate in charge of this sport. My only hesitation in using that term is that it is almost insulting to the Mafia, because the Mafia would never have been so blatant, overt and arrogant.”
And President Obama addressed the growing controversy over comedian Bill Cosby. More than 40 women alleged in the last nine months that Cosby sexually assaulted them in incidents dating back decades. He was asked about Cosby at Wednesday’s press conference.
Reporter: “Would you revoke the Medal of Freedom from Bill Cosby?”
President Obama: “There’s no precedent for revoking a medal. We don’t have that mechanism. And as you know, I tend to make it a policy not to comment on the specifics of cases where there might still be, if not criminal, then civil issues involved. I’ll say this: If you give a woman, or a man, for that matter, without his or her knowledge, a drug and then have sex with that person without consent, that’s rape. And I think this country — any civilized country — should have no tolerance for rape.”
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