Top News Stories for Today

Top news stories for today – May 29, 2016

Retake Fallujah from IS could take long

Retake Fallujah from IS could take longFor almost a week, thousands of Iraqi forces have been advancing on the Islamic State-held city of Fallujah, methodically moving to cut off as many as 1,000 IS fighters from help on the outside.

By Friday, backed by coalition airstrikes and artillery fire, Iraqi forces had cleared the town of Karma, about 16 kilometers northeast of the city. But while admitting Fallujah is “largely isolated,” US officials are trying to downplay expectations of a quick or decisive victory over IS.

“ISIL has entrenched itself in the city,” a US intelligence official told VOA on the condition of anonymity, using an acronym for the terror group. “Fallujah has been one of ISIL’s important footholds in Iraq,” the official added, calling it “the most forward position ISIL holds” and a threat to Baghdad. VOA



WHO dismisses call to move Olympics over Zika

Olympic called for delaying or moving over ZikaThe World Health Organization dismissed a call Saturday to move or cancel the Rio Summer Olympics due to the spread of the Zika virus. The U.N. agency was responding to a Friday open letter from health experts urging them to delay or relocate the event “in the name of public health,” citing the mosquito-borne virus’ link to birth defects.

“Based on the current assessment of the Zika virus circulating in almost 60 countries globally and 39 in the Americas, there is no public health justification for postponing or cancelling the games,” the group’s statement read. The Guardian, The Associated Press, The Week



Yellen predicts Fed interest rate hike

Federal Reserve Yellen predicts Fed interest rate hikeChair Janet Yellen said Friday an interest rate hike is “probably” appropriate in the coming months if economic data improve.

“It’s appropriate, and I’ve said this in the past, I think for the Fed to gradually and cautiously increase our overnight interest rate over time and probably in the coming months, such a move would be appropriate,” she said in response to a question at Harvard’s Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study.

Her remarks comes as colleagues on the Fed’s policymaking committee have pointed to an increase in the federal funds rate target sooner rather than later. Yellen has expressed caution this year on rates, as inflation lags below the Fed’s 2 percent target and global risks persist.

Yellen highlighted improvement in the labor market, saying it has nearly reached a point that most economists would associate with full employment. However, she outlined out some areas of weakness, including wage and productivity growth.  CNBC



Iran re-elects moderate conservative leader

Iran re-elects conservative LeaderIran’s moderate conservative parliament leader Ali Larijani was re-elected Sunday despite the gains made by reformists in elections held in February, with several members of the reformist party breaking ranks to vote against the head of their own List of Hope party, Mohammad Reza Aref.

Larijani’s election is an early win for the moderate conservatives in the new parliament, which convened Saturday for the first time. It also serves as a show of support for moderate President Hassan Rouhani and the nuclear deal signed last July with world powers.

Moderates and reformists who support Rouhani won the most seats in elections held earlier this year, though they are still short of a majority. Reformists hold 133 of the parliament’s 290 seats, with conservatives holding another 125. The rest of the seats are held by independents and religious minorities who are likely to support Rouhani’s efforts to pass legislation. VOA



N Korea linked to cyberattacks on banks

N Korea linked to cyberattacks on banksCybersecurity firm Symantec has found evidence that North Korea is behind the recent string of attacks on several Asian banks. Symantec said the malware used to steal $81 million from Bangladesh’s central bank is linked to attacks on a bank in the Philippines and in Vietnam.

This may be the first time one country has used malicious code to steal money from another country.

Security researchers say the malware is similar to that used in the past by a group known as “Lazarus.”  The group has been linked to a string of hackings largely focused on U.S. and South Korean targets dating back to 2009. That includes the crippling 2014 hack of Sony Pictures, which the FBI has blamed on the North Korean government. North Korea denied the allegation.

Symantec said a bank in Ecuador also reported to have lost $12 million to attackers using fraudulent SWIFT transactions.  Its researchers now back findings by the British defense contractor BAE Systems that links the Bangladesh bank heist and cyber-attacks on the banks in Vietnam and Ecuador. VOA

US Presidential election

Police arrest 35 at Trump rally: Police arrested at least 35 people Friday at a San Diego rally for Donald Trump. About 1,000 people reportedly turned out to protest the hard-line immigration policies of the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. Clashes between protesters and supporters were largely non-violent, but police in riot gear began pushing and pepper spraying protesters. “Fantastic job on handling the thugs who tried to disrupt our very peaceful and well-attended rally,” Trump tweeted. CNN, Reuters, The Week

Libertarians see opportunity in this election: The deep unpopularity of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton is causing an unprecedented level of excitement for a third party, the Libertarians, the consistent third-place finishers in a two-party race. Thousands are gathering for the Libertarian Party convention this weekend in Orlando, to vote Sunday for their presidential nominee. Libertarian officials said Friday as the four-day convention began that 985 delegates and 344 alternates were attending from all 50 states – a record. Dues-paying members have increased by 30 percent since the beginning of the year. The front-runners, among the 18 declared Libertarian presidential candidates, are former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson and running mate William Weld, the former Massachusetts governor. VOA

Trump university lawsuits: A judge overseeing a lawsuit filed against Donald Trump regarding his closed real estate education program called Trump University has ruled parts of internal documents, including “playbooks” regarding running the enterprise, should be released as part of the case. The playbooks, which include ones from 2009 and 2010, detail how the venture worked, how Trump University events were run and how to sell programs to customers. From 2005 to 2010 about 10,000 students across the nation signed up for Trump University classes, which promised success in real estate by offering courses and seminars based on the principles of the businessman. Now Trump University is the focus of two class action lawsuits in San Diego by some students who claim they were defrauded and a separate suit filed by the New York attorney general. CNN

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