Japanese lawmakers have voted into law new measures to allow Japanese troops to fight abroad for the first time since the end of World War II. The vote came after tens of thousands flocked to the streets to defend Japan’s pacifist constitution. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has pushed to weaken the pacifist provisions as part of a broader strategy of militarization. Opposition parties tried unsuccessfully to block the pro-military measures, which are opposed by a majority of the public. Protesters vowed to continue fighting.
Ayumi Nakamura: “Just because this law has been enacted doesn’t mean we should let it pass. We can’t just give up because it passed. After all, it was passed in the most irregular way.”
Pope Francis celebrated mass in Cuba Sunday before hundreds of thousands of worshipers in Havana’s Revolution Square. Born in Argentina, Francis is the first Latin American pope. He is widely praised in Cuba for helping to broker secret talks with Washington that resulted in the further normalization of U.S.-Cuban relations. After arriving in Cuba Saturday, Pope Francis praised the detente between Cuba and the United States as “an example of reconciliation for the entire world.” On Tuesday, Pope Francis arrives in Washington, where he will address Congress and meet with President Obama. We’ll have more on the pope’s visit to Cuba after headlines.
In news from Yemen, six foreign hostages, including two Americans, have been freed by Houthi rebels after months in captivity. The news comes as the latest U.S.-backed, Saudi-led airstrikes targeting the Houthi rebels have killed dozens more people. Airstrikes over the weekend hit the Old City in the Yemeni capital Sana’a, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, killing 10 members of a single family, including eight children.
In Greece, the left-leaning Syriza party has won snap elections, bringing Alexis Tsipras back to the role of prime minister a month after he resigned. Tsipras had stepped down amid a revolt within his own Syriza party after he reversed course on austerity and accepted the harsh terms of an international bailout. Syriza won 35 percent of the vote versus 28 percent for the conservative New Democracy Party, giving Syriza 145 seats in the 300-member Parliament. Tsipras said he felt “vindicated” by the win.
Alexis Tsipras: “We gave a tough and difficult battle, and I feel vindicated today because the Greek people gave us a clear mandate to continue fighting inside and outside the country and boost our people’s pride.”
Foreign ministers from four countries in Eastern Europe are meeting for talks today to address the influx of Syrian refugees fleeing violence in their home country. Thousands of people flooded into Austria over the weekend, with more expected to arrive from Hungary today. Hungary has reportedly reopened its main border crossing with Serbia, after its closure sent refugees streaming into Croatia. In Serbia, hundreds of people attending a heavily guarded LGBT pride event in the capital Belgrade over the weekend called for solidarity with the refugees and migrants passing through their country. Meanwhile, at least 13 people, including four children, died when their dinghy collided with a ferry off the coast of Turkey. Another 26 people are missing in a separate incident after their boat sank off the coast of the Greek island of Lesbos.
The United States has vowed to take in more refugees from around the world. Secretary of State John Kerry said the United States would take in a total of 100,000 refugees in 2017.
John Kerry: “I’m pleased to announce today that the United States will significantly increase our numbers for refugee resettlement in the course of this next year and the year after. Last year, I think we were at 70,000. We are now going to go up to 85,000, with at least, and I underscore the 'at least' — it is not a ceiling, it’s a floor of 10,000 over the next year from Syria specifically, even as we also receive more refugees from other areas. And in the next fiscal year, we’ll target 100,000.”
Kerry’s announcement still falls far short of calls from human rights groups to accept 100,000 refugees from Syria alone next year. The United States has taken in only about 1,600 Syrian refugees since the conflict began in 2011.
Volkswagen has apologized and halted the sale of certain diesel cars in the United States following reports it illegally installed software to evade standards for curbing pollution. The Environmental Protection Agency ordered Volkswagen to recall half a million vehicles after finding it installed the devices in a deliberate bid to avoid emissions rules. It remains unclear if Volkswagen officials will face criminal charges. Tyson Slocum of the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen told The Huffington Post, “This is a huge test of how serious the [Obama] administration’s commitment is to prosecuting white collar crime.”
The Council on American-Islamic Relations is calling on Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson to withdraw from the race after he said he would not agree with a Muslim being elected president. Carson made the comments on NBC’s Meet the Press with Chuck Todd.
Ben Carson: “Well, I guess it depends on what that faith is. If it’s inconsistent with the values and principles of America, then of course it should matter. But if it fits within the realm of America and consistent with the Constitution, no problem.”
Chuck Todd: “So do you believe that Islam is consistent with the Constitution?”
Ben Carson: “No, I don’t. I do not.”
Chuck Todd: “So you— ”
Ben Carson: “I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that.”
Carson’s campaign has defended the remarks, saying there is a “huge gulf” between the Muslim faith and “our Constitution and American values.” Carson’s comments came after fellow Republican contender Donald Trump was criticized for failing to correct a supporter who called Obama a Muslim at a town hall event last week. On Sunday, Trump told Chuck Todd he was willing to take Obama at his word when the president said he was a Christian. He also said that some people already think we have a Muslim president.
House lawmakers on Friday voted to strip federal funding from Planned Parenthood for a year unless it stops performing abortions. The vote follows a series of Republican-led hearings on heavily edited videos released by an anti-choice group which show Planned Parenthood employees discussing the sharing of fetal tissue with researchers. At one hearing, Arizona Republican Congressmember Trent Franks acknowledged Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee had neither seen or requested the full, unedited videos. On Friday, Florida Democratic Congressmember Lois Frankel denounced the bill defunding Planned Parenthood.
Rep. Lois Frankel: “I want to say this as respectfully as possible, but this bill is dumb, it’s foolish, and it’s mean-spirited, with only one purpose, and that is to punish one of our country’s premier health organizations because it provides women access to an array of services that we need to lead healthy lives.”
President Obama has nominated Eric Fanning as secretary of the Army. If confirmed by the Senate, Fanning would become the first openly gay civilian to lead a branch of the U.S. military.
The move comes as the U.S. military continues to deny imprisoned, transgender Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning permission to grow her hair. Manning is serving a 35-year sentence for giving classified documents to WikiLeaks. Last year, the ACLU filed a lawsuit demanding treatment for Manning’s gender dysphoria, including permission to grow out her hair. While Manning has been granted access to hormones and makeup, on Friday the military ruled she must continue to cut her hair short, citing security concerns. In a message on her Twitter feed, Manning vowed to fight the decision in court.
In Chicago, a dozen public school parents, grandmothers and education activists have ended a hunger strike over the fate of Dyett High School, after 34 days. Under Chicago mayor and former Obama chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, the city has closed about 50 schools in predominantly African-American and Latino neighborhoods. Earlier this month, under pressure from the hunger strikers, officials announced plans to reopen Dyett High School as an arts-focused, open-enrollment school. But the hunger strikers had called for it to become a global leadership and green technology school. They ended their fast Saturday amid concerns over the hunger strikers’ health.
And Viola Davis has made history, becoming the first African American to win an Emmy Award for best lead actress on a drama series.
Viola Davis: “'In my mind, I see a line. And over that line, I see green fields and lovely flowers and beautiful white women with their arms stretched out to me over that line. But I can't seem to get there no how. I can’t seem to get over that line.’ That was Harriet Tubman in the 1800s. And let me tell you something: The only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity. You cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there. So here’s to all the writers, the awesome people that are Ben Sherwood, Paul Lee, Peter Nowalk, Shonda Rhimes, people who have redefined what it means to be beautiful, to be sexy, to be a leading woman, to be black, and to the Taraji P. Hensons and Kerry Washingtons, the Halle Berrys, the Nicole Beharies, the Meagan Goods, to Gabrielle Union. Thank you for taking us over that line. Thank you for the Television Academy. Thank you.”
That’s Viola Davis, making history, accepting the Emmy Award for best lead actress on a drama series for her role as a defense attorney in the series “How to Get Away with Murder.”