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The United States and Cuba have reopened their embassies in each other’s capitals, marking another historic step toward the normalization of relations between the two countries. On Monday, Secretary of State John Kerry hosted Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez, the first time a Cuban foreign minister has visited the State Department in 54 years. We’ll have more on this story after headlines.
In breaking news from Senegal, the trial of Chadian former dictator Hissène Habré has been postponed until September 7 after Habré’s lawyers did not show up to court for the second day of trial. Habré has been charged with crimes against humanity, war crimes and torture related to his eight-year reign in Chad during the 1980s. We’ll have more on this story later in the show.
A memorial service is being held today at Prairie View A&M University in Texas for Sandra Bland, the 28-year-old African-American woman who died last week in a Waller County jail cell three days after she was pulled over for a traffic violation. Authorities said she committed suicide in her jail cell, a claim her family has rejected. On Monday, Waller County District Attorney Elton Mathis said, “It is very much too early to make any kind of determination that this was a suicide or a murder because the investigations are not complete. This is being treated like a murder investigation.” Also on Monday, the lawyer for the Bland family described newly obtained dash cam footage of the arrest, which shows that the police escalated a routine traffic stop by ordering Bland to extinguish her cigarette.
Cannon Lambert, Bland family lawyer: “The dash cam video shows that the officer makes the stop, shows him approach from the passenger side and ask for a driver’s license and insurance, which she gives him. He goes back. He runs her name. He approaches her again after doing so, on the driver’s side. He asks her to put out a cigarette. She says, 'Why do I have to put out a cigarette when I'm in my own car?’ And that seemed to irritate him to the point where he said, 'Get out of the car.'”
The officer who arrested Sandra Bland has been put on desk duty for violating traffic procedures during the stop.
Former NASA scientist James Hansen, who was one of the first to raise concerns about climate change in the 1980s, has warned that sea levels could rise as much as 10 feet before the end of the century unless greenhouse gas emissions are drastically reduced. The rise would make cities such as London, New York and Shanghai uninhabitable. This comes as new data shows that this past June was the hottest on record, breaking the previous record, which was set last year.
Dozens of mayors and officials representing cities and states from across the world are meeting with Pope Francis in the Vatican today to discuss cities’ commitment to addressing climate change. The meeting comes after Pope Francis wrote an unprecedented encyclical calling for action on climate change. In related news, on Monday a group of Catholic Workers in upstate New York used a seven-foot-tall replica of Pope Francis’ encyclical to erect a highway blockade as part of an ongoing campaign to block a methane gas storage project in caverns underneath Seneca Lake. Thirteen people were arrested.
In news from Europe, officials failed to reach an agreement Monday on how to relocate throughout Europe the tens of thousands of asylum seekers who have arrived in Greece and Italy this year. As many as 150,000 migrants have arrived in Europe by sea in 2015 alone. After the officials failed to reach an agreement, Dimitris Avramopoulos, the European Union commissioner for migration, expressed his disappointment.
Dimitris Avramopoulos, EU commissioner for migration: “It is clear member states must deliver on the promises made at the European Council last month to reach the agreed figure of 40,000 persons proposed by the commission. I want to be frank with you: I am disappointed that this did not happen today.”
Meanwhile, as the failed talks were being held, the Italian Coast Guard arrived in a Sicilian harbor with about 600 migrants, whom the navy had rescued at sea over the weekend. Most were from sub-Saharan Africa.
The credit rating agency Standard and Poor’s has downgraded Puerto Rico’s debt. In a statement Monday afternoon, the agency said it was a “virtual certainty” that the island would default on its upcoming debt payments on August 1. Unlike U.S. states, Puerto Rico is not permitted to declare bankruptcy. Many have taken to calling Puerto Rico “America’s Greece.”
In Turkey, police fired tear gas and water cannons at protesters on Monday during a demonstration following a deadly bombing that killed 30 youth activists in the mostly Kurdish border town of Suruc. Kurds in Turkey have spoken out against what they perceive to be the Turkish government’s failure to confront the spread of the self-proclaimed Islamic State. Meanwhile, in Washington, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest condemned Monday’s attack.
Press Secretary Josh Earnest: “I can tell you that the United States strongly condemns the heinous terrorist attack that occurred in southern Turkey. Our condolences go out to the families of the victims, many of whom had come to that community to assist in reconstruction efforts in Kobani. We express our solidarity with the Turkish government and the Turkish people, and reaffirm our undeterred resolve to the fight against the shared threat of terrorism.”
In campaign news, Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush has outlined his economic policy, which includes cutting 10 percent of the federal workforce and introducing a constitutional amendment to require the federal government to balance its budget. Meanwhile, Ohio Governor John Kasich is entering the presidential race, becoming the 16th Republican contender.
The Wall Street Journal is reporting that New York state’s fast-food wage board is expected to recommend hiking the minimum wage for fast-food workers to $15 an hour on Wednesday. The labor commission is likely to approve the wage increase. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has spoken out against the fast-food industry, saying, “It costs this state $700 million a year to subsidize the profits at McDonald’s and Burger King and that is wrong and that must stop.”
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