Top News Stories for Today

Top news stories for today – June 1, 2016

US supported groups attack IS stronghold in Syria

US supported groups attack IS stronghold in SyriaThousands of US backed Syrian fighters launched an offensive on Tuesday to capture an area in northern Syria that the Islamic State has been using to move foreign fighters to and from Europe.

“It’s significant in that it’s their last remaining funnel” to Europe, a US military official said. Some US special operations forces will serve as advisers and offer support in the area, known as the Manbij pocket, but they will not engage in direct combat. The operation also will involve airstrikes from the US led coalition. Reuters, The Week


US death rate increases

US death rate increasesFor the first time in over a decade, death rates in the United States are on the rise. The death rate in 2015 was 729.5 deaths per 100,000 people — up from 723.2 deaths in 2014.

Typically, death rates decline each year because of improvements in medical technology and preventative care, The New York Times reports. But in 2015, death rates climbed due to more deaths from drug overdoses, suicide, and Alzheimer’s disease, as well as a slight uptick in the death rate from heart disease.

Experts say it’s “quite rare” to see mortality rates increase across the whole population. The last time the U.S. death rate increased was 2005, due largely to a bad flu season. The New York Times


US Texas floods topped 20-year levels

US Texas floods topped 20-year levelsAt least seven people died in flooding in Texas over the Memorial Day weekend, and heavy rains will continue to douse the state through the end of this week.

On Wednesday, thunderstorms are forecast to dump rain on Oklahoma and central and western Texas, but eastern Texas, still reeling from heavy weekend flooding, will get hit again on Thursday, according to the National Weather Service.

In suburban Houston’s Fort Bend County, the Brazos River surpassed 54 feet on Tuesday night, topping a 1994 record by about four feet. The flooding has prompted evacuations, and in Fort Bend County, the rising water has reportedly brought with it water moccasin snakes and other critters looking to ride out the floods in houses, according to KHOU-TV. Houston Chronicle, USA Today


Consumer spending boosts US economy

Consumer spending boosts US economyThe consumer spending that powers most U.S. econometric activity jumped a strong one percent in April, the biggest gain in about six years.

Tuesday’s report from the Commerce Department says the gains were due to increases in purchases of cars and other expensive, long-lasting goods. PNC Bank Chief Economists Stuart Hoffman calls the report “good news” for economic growth in April, May, and June. He also predicts that inflation will rise a bit this year.

New data also show inflation rose a bit, but remains below the two percent rate that experts at the U.S. central bank say would help economic growth.

Top Federal Reserve officials are scheduled to meet in two weeks and will consider this and other reports as they decide how soon and how much to raise interest rates. Those rates were pushed down to record lows to boost growth during the financial crisis. VOA

US Presidential election

Trump veterans charities donations coincided with press scrutiny: In a heated press conference on Tuesday, Donald Trump took umbrage at reporters asking him to account for the $6 million he said he raised for veterans charities back in January, resorting to name-calling and other invectives when reporters questioned him. Trump read off 41 organizations that had received $5.6 million from his January fundraiser, including $1 million of his own money. The Associated Press called each of the 41 organizations, 30 responded, and about half said they only got checks from Trump last week, with the biggest batch going out on or around May 24 — the same day Trump finally spoke with The Washington Post, which had been publicly digging around to account for his donations. Trump campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks said the timing was coincidental. The Week, The Associated Press

North Korea Newspaper endorses Trump: Donald Trump has received his latest endorsement from an unlikely source: North Korea. Official state-run North Korean newspaper DPRK Today ran an editorial today praising Trump as a “wise politician” and “far-sighted candidate.” “The president that U.S. citizens must vote for is not that dull Hillary but Trump, who spoke of holding direct conversation with North Korea,” the editorial said. The article, first reported by the website, went on to praise the April foreign policy speech Trump gave in Washington, D.C., where he threatened to withdraw U.S. forces from South Korea if the government didn’t pay the United States for defense. Trump also earned high praise in December from Russian President Vladimir Putin, who called the GOP front-runner “talented” and “very colorful.” Yahoo

Stephen Hawking: Trump a demagogue: During an interview Tuesday on Britain’s ITV news, Physicist Stephen Hawking was asked to explain the billionaire’s appeal. “I can’t,” Hawking replied. “He is a demagogue who seems to appeal to the lowest common denominator.” Hawking is not the first Briton to criticize the presumptive Republican nominee for president. British Prime Minister David Cameron and London Mayor Sadiq Khan, for example, were critical of Trump’s comments that Britain has a “massive Muslim problem.” Trump has not yet responded to Hawking’s comments. VOA

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