Top news stories for today – June 18, 2016
Russian athletes banned from Rio Olympics
The International Association of Athletics Federations has banned Russia’s track and field team from competing in this summer’s Rio Olympics after a massive doping scandal, the organization announced Friday.
The Russian athletes had been barred from international competition back in November after a report by the World Anti-Doping Agency found a “deeply rooted culture of cheating at all levels,” and the IAAF ruled the country had not met its terms for reinstatement.
Russia’s sports minister Vitaly Mutko claims Russia complied with the IAAF’s terms. The International Olympic Committee, which oversees the Games, is expected to discuss the decision Tuesday, and while a reversal would be unlikely, a potential alternative is allowing athletes with zero history of drug abuse to compete. The New York Times, The Guardian
Obama to maintain Syria strategy
The Obama administration is downplaying criticism of its military strategy in Syria after a leaked internal memo was signed by more than 50 US diplomats 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; the document 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.” Several US government officials told Reuters that while the White House will consider the advice, the president’s strategy will likely not change before he leaves office.
Spain, Italy advance in Euro 2016
Both Spain and Italy won their second-week matches in the UEFA Euro 2016, allowing both teams to advance to the next round of the tournament.
Italy’s star striker Eder booted in a goal in the 88th minute of the match against Sweden to send the Italians to the knockout stages, while Spain thoroughly dominated opponent Turkey in a 3-0 victory, cementing their status as tournament favorites.
Also Friday, a match between Croatia and the Czech Republic ended in a 2-2 draw after Czech Republic rallied back from a two-goal deficit. Play continues Saturday with two games: Belgium vs. Ireland at 9 a.m. EDT and Iceland vs. Hungary at 12 p.m. EDT. ESPN, Fox Sports
Brazil seeks emergency funding ahead of Olympics
Just under 50 days before the Olympics, Rio de Janeiro’s state governor has issued an executive order declaring a state of emergency that authorizes additional funding to fulfill obligations during the games.
A severe economic crisis has prevented the state from “honoring its commitments to the organization of the Olympic and Paralympic Games,” reads the order, released in the official government gazette Friday. The crisis has been “causing severe difficulties in the provision of essential public services and can even cause a total breakdown in public security, health, education, mobility and environmental management,” the order reads.
For months, Brazil has been struggling with its worst recession since the 1930s. The country’s economy, the largest in Latin America, shrank 5.4% in the first quarter of this year, according to government figures. The oil-rich state of Rio de Janeiro has been especially hit by falling commodity prices. CNN
US Presidential election
Donald Trump gains ground on Hillary Clinton in new poll: A Reuters/Ipsos poll released Friday shows Donald Trump closing the gap with Democratic rival Hillary Clinton. The poll, which was conducted June 13-17 nationwide, showed Clinton garnering the support of 45.5 percent of likely voters compared to Trump’s 34.8 percent. Nearly 20 percent of voters supported neither candidate. Clinton’s 10.7-point lead over Trump is down from the 14.3-point advantage she held Sunday, the day Orlando gunman Omar Mateen killed 49 people in a mass shooting at an LGBT nightclub. Reuters
Bernie Sanders is still an active candidate: Bernie Sanders’ campaign manager Jeff Weaver confirmed Friday that the Vermont senator is still an “active candidate” in the Democratic race. The announcement comes the day after Sanders told his supporters that he would be working with Hillary Clinton to defeat Donald Trump — while also affirming his desire to make the Democratic Party pass “the most progressive platform in its history.” Sanders notably did not concede the race in his speech Thursday. Weaver said that the time isn’t right for Sanders to drop out and when asked if that meant he was still running for president, Weaver replied, “Yes he is, yes he is, yes he is. He is an active candidate for president, yes.” The Wall Street Journal
Trump on Orlando shooting: In a rally in Texas, Donald Trump told the crowd the outcome of that tragic night would have been different if patrons had been armed. “If some of those wonderful people had guns strapped right here, right to their waist or right to their ankle and this son of a bitch comes out and starts shooting and one of the people in the room happened to have it and goes boom, boom, you know what folks, that would have been a beautiful, beautiful sight,” the billionaire businessman said to a cheering crowd.
Trump also criticized Obama who has once again called for stricter gun control in the wake of the Orlando massacre. He told his supporters Hillary Clinton wanted to allow refugees into the US from countries where “they want to kill gays and they enslave women and Hillary Clinton wants them pouring in.” Some Republicans leaders have encouraged Trump to tamp down his rhetoric, but he has steadfastly refused. VOA
Sanders: I’ll work with Clinton to Keep Trump out of White House: Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders told an audience of supporters Thursday that he would work with presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton to make sure Republican Donald Trump never reaches the White House. He accused Trump of insulting Hispanics, Muslims, women and African-Americans, and of calling global warming a hoax. Sanders promised to work for the most progressive platform in Democratic Party history at next month’s convention in Philadelphia. VOA
- Syrian Kurds point finger at Western-backed opposition | Reuters (firstpost.com)
- The Mighty Russian War Machine: (brothersjuddblog.com)
- Syria blames Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia for deadly bombings (bbc.com)
- UN condemns ISIS and regime bombings in Syria (israelnationalnews.com)