Top News Stories for Today – June 16, 2017
Russia claims it killed ISIS leader
On Friday, the Russian Defense Ministry said Russian airstrikes outside the Islamic State’s de facto capital Raqqa, Syria, on May 28 are believed to have killed ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, along with dozens of other high-ranking and midlevel ISIS commanders.
“According to information that is being checked through various channels, Islamic State leader Ibrahim Abu-Bakr al-Baghdadi, who was killed as a result of the strike, was also present at the meeting,” the Defense Ministry said in a statement. The ISIS leader is believed to have been hiding in the desert outside of Mosul, Iraq, until escaping after U.S.-backed Iraqi forces recaptured most of the city. This isn’t the first report of al-Baghdadi’s death. BBC News, RT, The Week
Trump to unveil new Cuba policy
On Friday, President Trump will travel to Miami to unveil a rollback of many of former President Barack Obama’s Cuba policies, enacted under a historic rapprochement Obama and Cuban leader Raul Castro announced in December 2014. Trump’s policy directive will crack down on American travel to Cuba and prohibit U.S. companies and individuals from conducting business with any entities owned by Cuba’s military, which controls much of the economy through civilian-run holding companies, particularly in tourism and hotels.
Trump’s directive is being cheered by Cuban-American hardliners, including some members of Congress, though it won’t totally reverse Obama’s Cuba thaw: the U.S. and Cuban embassies will stay open in Havana and Washington, respectively, and the “wet foot, dry foot” policy will still be defunct, for example. Business and human rights groups oppose the changes, and a months-long review by the Trump administration had ended with a recommendation to stick with Obama’s policy. The Miami Herald, The New York Times, The Week
Congressional baseball trophy given to Scalise
Democrats and Republicans came together Thursday night for the yearly Congressional Baseball Game at Nationals Park in Washington; one day after House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) was shot during the GOP’s practice in Alexandria, Virginia. The Democrats won 11-2, but House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), during a joint interview with House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), told CNN they were all on “Team Scalise,” and the Democrats gave their trophy to Scalise.
Players on both sides wore Louisiana State University hats in a nod to Scalise, who remains in critical condition following several surgeries. Capitol Police special agent David Bailey, who was injured during the shooting, surprised the crowd by coming out on crutches and throwing the first pitch. More than 20,000 tickets were sold for the game, and $1 million was raised for Congressional Sports for Charity. CNN
US accuses Chinese company laundering N Korean funds
The United States is accusing a Chinese company of laundering funds from a North Korea bank through U.S. financial institutions. U.S. officials have filed a complaint and are asking a court to seize $1.9 million Mingzheng International Trading Limited improperly moved on behalf of Foreign Trade Bank, a sanctioned, state-owned North Korea financial institution.
The North Korean bank is prohibited from engaging in transactions with the U.S. financial system under sanctions imposed in response to North Korea’s nuclear weapons development. The U.S. Justice Department said the case would represent “one of the largest seizures of North Korean funds” by the agency. VOA
Queen and Prince William visit fire victims
The Queen and Prince William visited a relief centre for Grenfell Tower fire victims, while the missing could number as many as 76, the BBC understands. Their visit to the Westway Sports Centre comes after police say some of those killed may never be identified. Police have confirmed that at least 30 people have died as a result of the blaze at the west London flats.
Metropolitan Police Commander Stuart Cundy said that of those who were killed, one died in hospital. He also said there was nothing to suggest that the fire was started deliberately, and that everyone in hospital has now been identified. The fire broke out shortly before 01:00 BST on Wednesday. BBC
WH cancels program to protect immigrant parents
An Obama-era immigration program intended to protect parents of U.S. citizens and legal residents from deportation has been formally canceled, fulfilling a key campaign promise from Trump, the Homeland Security Department announced late Thursday.
Homeland Security John Kelly formally revoked a policy memo that created the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans program. The revocation came on the fifth anniversary of another effort that has protected hundreds of thousands of young immigrants from deportation.
The program to protect parents was announced by President Barack Obama in November 2014 but was never fully launched. It was intended to keep the immigrant parents safe from deportation and provide them with a renewable work permit good for two years, but it was blocked by a federal judge in Texas after 26 states filed suit against the federal government and challenged the effort’s legality. Republicans decried the effort at “backdoor amnesty” and argued that Obama overstepped his authority by protecting a specific class of immigrants living in the US illegally. VOA
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