Top News Stories for Today – June 20, 2017
Warmbier dies days after release from N Korea
Otto Warmbier, the 22-year-old American student recently released from North Korea after 17 months in prison, died Monday afternoon. “Surrounded by his loving family, Otto died today at 2:20 p.m.,” the Warmbiers said in a statement. Warmbier was in a coma when he was medically evacuated to the U.S. last week.
Doctors determined he was in a state of “unresponsive wakefulness” after losing an extensive amount of brain tissue, likely because of a lack of blood flow during cardiopulmonary arrest. Last year, Warmbier was sentenced to 15 years in prison in North Korea for trying to steal a propaganda poster from his hotel room. The China-based company that set up Warmbier’s trip to North Korea, Young Pioneer Tours, said that following his death, they will no longer set up tours for U.S. citizens. The Washington Post, ABC News, The Week
Democrats protest secretive GOP health-care bill
To protest the Republican attempt to repeal ObamaCare, Senate Democrats took over the floor on Monday, using motions, inquiries, and long speeches to bring attention to the GOP drafting their bill behind closed doors.
Republicans have said a vote could come within the next two weeks, even though the draft bill has not been seen publicly, and the Democrats are calling for open committee hearings and additional time to consider the bill before a vote. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Republicans have not held any public hearings or negotiations, and that’s the “most glaring departure from normal legislative procedure that I have ever seen. Republicans are writing their health-care bill under the cover of darkness because they are ashamed of it.” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said every Republican senator has been involved in one way or another in drafting the bill, and once it makes it to the Senate floor, Democrats will have the opportunity to amend the legislation. Reuters, The Week
Flynn didn’t disclose role in deal between Saudis, Russians
Michael Flynn, President Trump’s former national security adviser, did not reveal to the House Foreign Relations Committee that during a 2015 trip to Saudi Arabia, he was there to secure funding for a U.S.-Russia business plan to build nuclear reactors, a congressional letter signed by Democratic members of the House Oversight and Foreign Affairs committees states.
The letter, sent to the Flynn Intel Group and two other businesses involved with the Saudi deal, asks why Flynn did not mention this trip and underreported another trip on his January 2016 application to renew his federal security clearance. Flynn said he took the second trip to Saudi Arabia to speak at a conference, but the letter says the hotel he claimed to stay at doesn’t seem to exist. Flynn is being looked at as part of the investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials. McClatchy DC, The Week
Russia halts use of ‘de-confliction’ channel
Russia said Monday that it will no longer use a “de-confliction” channel intended to help it steer clear of conflict with the U.S. as the nations battle terrorism in Syria. Russia’s announcement came a day after a U.S. aircraft on Sunday downed a Syrian government fighter jet, prompting Russia, which supports Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces, to announce that any U.S.-led coalition planes flying west of the Euphrates River will be considered “air targets.” A top Russian official described the downing of the plane as “an act of aggression that assists terrorists.”
France, England rattled by terror-related violence
Two of Europe’s central cities were the site of terror-related violence after attacks struck both London and Paris on Monday. In London, a car drove into a group of people exiting a mosque, killing one and injuring 10 others.
Authorities arrested 47-year-old Darren Osborne on terror-related charges in connection with the attack. Later Monday, Paris police thwarted an apparent “kamikaze attack” near Champs-Elysees Avenue, killing the driver of a car filled with weapons and gas canisters after he rammed his vehicle into a police van; the assailant had been flagged to authorities for ties to extremism. The counterterrorism unit of the Paris prosecutor’s office confirmed it is investigating Monday’s incident. BBC News, AFP, The Week
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