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HeadlinesMay 31, 2017

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Afghanistan: Massive Bombing in Kabul Kills 80 People and Wounds 350

May 31, 2017

In Afghanistan, a massive bombing near the German Embassy in the capital Kabul killed more than 80 people and wounded over 350 during rush hour traffic Wednesday morning. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack so far. Officials have described today’s bombing as one of the biggest blasts ever in Kabul. It shattered windows more than a mile away from explosion’s center and blasted a crater more than 13 feet deep into the ground. Among those who were killed was Aziz Navin, who worked for the Afghan TV station TOLO TV, and Mohammed Nazir, who has worked as a driver for the BBC Afghan Service for four years and was killed this morning as he was driving his co-workers to the office. Nearby hospitals were inundated with wounded patients after the blast. This is Ghulam Mohammad.

Ghulam Mohammad: “I was at my desk, when I heard a terrible sound and became unconscious. I didn’t know what happened to me. And a few minutes later, when I opened my eyes, I found myself under the desk and saw blood coming out of my shoulder. It was a dreadful explosion.”

Today’s bombing comes as the White House is weighing the Pentagon’s proposal to send thousands more U.S. troops to Afghanistan. We’ll go to Afghanistan for more on the bombing after headlines.

Trump Escalates Feud with Germany over Trade and NATO Dues

May 31, 2017

President Trump escalated his feud with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday, taking to Twitter to threaten Germany over trade and NATO. Trump tweeted, “We have a MASSIVE trade deficit with Germany, plus they pay FAR LESS than they should on NATO & military. Very bad for U.S. This will change.” Trump’s complaints come after Chancellor Merkel called her meetings with Trump at the G7 summit over the weekend disappointing and said Europe had to take its fate in its own hands. European allies have expressed particular frustration over Trump’s refusal to commit the United States to fulfilling its pledges to the landmark 2015 Paris climate accord. The New York Times reports Trump’s inner circle is fiercely divided on the Paris climate accord, with chief strategist Steve Bannon and EPA administrator Scott Pruitt demanding Trump withdraw from the landmark accord, while Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Trump’s daughter and adviser Ivanka Trump are advocating for the agreement. On Tuesday, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres called on the U.S. to remain a party to the landmark agreement.

Secretary-General António Guterres: “The effects of climate change are already being felt around the world, and they are dangerous, and they are accelerating. And so my argument today is that it is absolutely essential that the world implements the Paris Agreement and that we fulfill that duty with increased ambition. And the reason is threefold. Climate change is undeniable. Climate action is unstoppable. And climate solutions provide opportunities that are unmatchable.”

Michael Flynn to Turn Over Subpoenaed Documents to Senate Intel Committee

May 31, 2017

Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn will turn over some subpoenaed documents to the Senate Intelligence Committee as part of its investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to allegedly influence the 2016 election. Flynn had previously said he would refuse to turn over any of the requested personal documents, instead saying he’d plead the Fifth. Now Flynn says he’ll begin turning over subpoenaed documents that pertain to two of his businesses, as well as some personal documents, as early as June 6. This comes as President Donald Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen, said he would not comply with a House Intelligence Committee request for information about his ties to Russian officials.

Trump Complains About Unnamed Sources as He Retweets Article Based on Unnamed Source

May 31, 2017

Meanwhile, President Trump and the White House continue to complain about the use of anonymous sources in news reports about the ongoing investigation into the Trump administration’s ties to Russia. This is White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, speaking Tuesday about recent leaks about the investigation into Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner’s attempts to establish a back channel of communication with Russia.

Press Secretary Sean Spicer: “I’m not going to get into what the president did or did not discuss, but it—what your question assumes is a lot of facts that are not substantiated by anything but anonymous sources that are so far being leaked out.”

President Trump has also complained about the use of unnamed sources, tweeting over the weekend, “Whenever you see the words 'sources say' in the fake news media, and they don’t mention names, it is very possible that those sources don’t exist but are made up by fake news writers. #FakeNews is the enemy!” But on Tuesday, Trump retweeted a Fox News article based exclusively on a single unnamed source, who said Kushner did not discuss a possible back channel with Russia during a December meeting with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak at Trump Tower.

Report: Trump Expected to Roll Back Relations with Cuba

May 31, 2017

CNN is reporting President Trump is expected to roll back some of the United States’ new diplomatic and commercial relations with Cuba, which were brokered under the Obama administration. Unnamed U.S. officials say Trump may reinstate restrictions on Americans visiting Cuba and bringing back famous Cuba goods, like cigars and rum. Officials also say Trump might demand the extradition of people who have received political asylum in Cuba, like Assata Shakur. Before becoming president, Donald Trump’s businesses violated the U.S. embargo on Cuba, secretly doing business in Cuba in the late 1990s and then trying to cover it up. Trump’s company, then called Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts, spent at least $68,000 in Cuba during a secret business trip to Havana. At the time, it was illegal under U.S. law to spend any corporate money in Cuba.


Philippines: Duterte Tells Soldiers They Can Rape Women in Region Under Martial Law

May 31, 2017

In the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte has sparked outrage after he told soldiers that they could rape women with impunity in the region of Mindanao, where Duterte has declared martial law. In a speech Friday, Duterte said, “If you happen to have raped three women, I will own up to it”—implying he’d cover for the soldiers and take responsibility himself for the rape. In the past, Duterte has said he wished he’d been “first in line” in a gang rape of a woman who was raped and murdered in the 1980s.

After Court Ruling, Taiwan Poised to Legalize Marriage Equality

May 31, 2017

In Taiwan, the highest court has ruled against laws prohibiting LGBT couples from marrying—making Taiwan poised to be the first country in Asia to legalize marriage equality. The victory came after a longtime LGBT activist sued when he was prohibited from marrying his longtime partner. In its ruling, the court wrote, “The freedom of marriage for two persons of the same sex, once legally recognised, will constitute the collective basis, together with opposite-sex marriage, for a stable society.”


Cleveland: Officer Who Killed 12-Year-Old Tamir Rice Fired—But Not for Killing

May 31, 2017

Back in the United States, in Cleveland, the police officer who killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice has been fired—but not over the shooting of the African-American boy. In 2014, officer Timothy Loehmann shot Rice within two seconds of arriving at a Cleveland park where Rice was playing with a toy pellet gun. Neither Loehmann nor his partner, Frank Garmback, administered any first aid. When Tamir’s 14-year-old sister rushed to her brother’s side, they tackled her to the ground, handcuffed her and put her in the cruiser. Tamir died the next day. A Cleveland Police Department investigation concluded the two officers did not violate department policies in killing the child. But on Tuesday, officials said Loehmann will be fired after a second investigation found he’d lied in his job application to the police department. Tamir Rice’s mother Samaria said, “I am relieved Loehmann has been fired because he should never have been a police officer in the first place—but he should have been fired for shooting my son in less than one second, not just for lying on his application.”

North Carolina: Undocumented Grandmother Taking Sanctuary in Episcopal Church

May 31, 2017

In North Carolina, undocumented grandmother Juana Luz Tobar Ortega is seeking sanctuary in an Episcopal church today to avoid her deportation. Ortega has lived in the United States since 1992, when she fled violence in Guatemala. She works as a sewing machine operator at a textile factory near her home in Asheboro, North Carolina. Since 2011, she’s been reporting to annual required ICE check-ins without problems. But this spring, after President Trump took office, ICE officials instead ordered her to leave the country by today, May 31. Instead, she’s seeking sanctuary in efforts to remain in the United States with her four children and two grandchildren.

Benjamin Melendez, NYC Gang Leader Who Brokered Historic Peace Deal, Dies at 65

May 31, 2017

Here in New York City, Benjamin “Yellow Benjy” Melendez, a gang leader who brokered a historic peace deal between rival gangs in the Bronx and Harlem, has died at the age of 65. Melendez was a Puerto Rican nationalist who was radicalized by a young member of the Black Panthers. In 1971, he was the leader of the Ghetto Brothers gang when one of the gang’s members was murdered. In response, Melendez called for the historic Hoe Avenue peace meeting, which de-escalated gang violence in New York City for at least a decade.

Reports: Trump to Pull U.S. Out of Landmark 2015 Paris Climate Deal

May 31, 2017

And in breaking news, multiple news website are reporting President Trump has decided to pull out of the landmark 2015 Paris climate accord. Axios news outlet is reporting this breaking news based on two unnamed sources; it has not been confirmed by the White House.

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