Top news stories for today – June 17, 2016
US diplomats call for strikes against Syrian government
More than 50 US diplomats have signed an internal memo urging the Obama administration to approve military airstrikes against the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
A State Department official sent a draft of the memo to The New York Times, and it says that while military action would have risks, “the moral rationale for taking steps to end the deaths and suffering in Syria, after five years of brutal war, is evident and unquestionable. The status quo in Syria will continue to present increasingly dire, if not disastrous, humanitarian, diplomatic, and terrorism-related challenges.” If Obama does take heed of the advice, it would be a major shift in the administration’s approach to Syria. The New York Times
Brexit campaigning suspended after a politician killed
Both sides of the Brexit debate have halted campaigning out of respect for Jo Cox, a Labour Party MP who died Thursday after she was shot and stabbed in Birstall, West Yorkshire. The incident took place after Cox led her morning town hall meeting for constituents.
Britain will vote on a referendum next week deciding whether the country should leave the European Union. No motive has been established in the attack, but Cox was known for working on immigration and Syria-related issues since being elected to parliament in 2015, and was against leaving the EU. She was married with two young children. The suspected assailant, named in British media as Tommy Mair, 52, had longstanding ties to U.S. neo-Nazi group the National Alliance, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. The Washington Post, The New York Times
Obama urges action on gun laws
President Obama gave an impassioned speech Thursday on gun control during a visit to Orlando, Florida, after a mass shooting there Sunday killed 49 people at an LGBT nightclub. Obama spent the day meeting with the families of victims, as well as first responders and law enforcement officials, before delivering his remarks.
“Today,” he said, “I held and hugged grieving family members and parents and they asked, ‘Why does this keep happening?’ And they pleaded that we do more to stop the carnage.” Obama continued: “They don’t care about the politics. Neither do I … If we don’t act, we will be choosing to see more massacres like this.” Memorial services for the victims began Wednesday night, with Javier Jorge-Reyes, 40, and Thursday saw the funerals of Kimberly Morris, 37; Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, 36; and Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo, 20. The funerals are expected to continue for two weeks. CNN, The New York Times
EU leaders come to Russia amid weariness over sanctions
After a two-year break which felt more like a boycott, European leaders and chief executives of top multinational companies are back at Russia’s top economic gathering in a sign of weariness about European sanctions against Moscow.
Russia’s annexation of Crimea in March 2014 and its support for separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine landed President Vladimir Putin in international isolation. The European Union and the United States imposed economic sanctions and kicked Russia out of the G8 group of nations.
Once Russia’s showcase of its geopolitical weight and economic attractiveness, the St. Petersburg Economic Forum — dubbed Russia’s Davos — was a sore sight the past two years: European leaders and heads of the major companies who once had lucrative long-term projects in Russia were nowhere to be seen. VOA
US Presidential election
Bernie Sanders stays in the race to transform Democratic Party: In an address to supporters Thursday, Bernie Sanders said the Democratic Party needs to undergo a transformation in order to be more inclusive and reiterated his stance that Donald Trump can never be elected. He argued that the Democratic Party needs to undergo a transformation to become the “party of working people and young people and not just wealthy campaign contributors.” Sanders also suggested that the party come up with a new 50-state strategy, focusing on local races, and directed his supporters to consider running for state offices, saying it’s time for “new blood in the political process, and you are that new blood.” He did not concede the election to Hillary Clinton, but did say they agree on several issues. The Week
Trump’s Orlando comments deepen Republican split: Trump told a rally in Greensboro, North Carolina, that the Orlando tragedy has made the threat of terrorism a central issue in the campaign. “We are not going to let people take advantage of us. We are going to go to the movie theater. We are going to go on airplanes. We are going to lead our lives like we are supposed to lead our lives,” Trump told enthusiastic followers.
But Trump’s divisive rhetoric on Muslims and his attacks on Obama and Hillary Clinton have made some Republicans nervous, something Trump chose to address at a rally in Atlanta, Georgia. “The Republicans, honestly folks, our leaders have to get tougher. This is tough to do alone, but you know what? I think I’m going to be forced to.” Trump added his own message for Republican leaders seeking to put distance between themselves and the presumptive nominee: “Don’t talk. Please be quiet.” VOA