Top news stories for today – May 30, 2016
Iraqi forces entering Fallujah
Early Monday, Iraq’s elite counterterrorism forces started moving into southern Fallujah, one of two remaining large Iraqi cities controlled by the Islamic State, according to Brig. Haider al-Obeidi. He described the ISIS resistance as “fierce,” with snipers, mortars, and car bombs.
Iraq announced the offensive last week, but has so far been encircling the city and capturing the surrounding areas. There are an estimated 50,000 civilians trapped in Fallujah, and the Iraqi government is telling those who can’t escape to stay indoors. In Baghdad, meanwhile, ISIS claimed responsibility for several bombings on Monday that have killed at least 24 people. The car bombings in Baghdad are widely seen as an attempt to divide and distract Iraqi security forces. The Associated Press, BBC News, The Week
About 700 migrants killed in 3 shipwrecks
The largest boat was carrying some 670 refugees and did not have an engine. So far, only about 100 of its passengers have been rescued, while 15 bodies have been found. Since 2014, an estimated 8,000 migrants have died, mostly at sea, attempting to flee war and terror in the Middle East and North Africa. The Associated Press, BBC, The Week
US observes Memorial Day
President Barack Obama has several planned events on Memorial Day, the holiday that honors men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. Obama will host a breakfast for military and veteran service groups, as well as senior military leaders, at the White House Monday morning. Later, the president will participate in a Memorial Day observation at Arlington National Cemetery where he will lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Obama said in his weekly address: “The debt we owe our fallen heroes is one we can never truly repay.”
The U.S. observes the holiday on the last Monday of May. The first large-scale observance of what was originally called Decoration Day took place at Arlington Cemetery in 1868, three years after the bloody U.S. Civil War that killed more than 600,000 people.
Now, the three-day weekend is seen as the unofficial start of the summer vacation season. Many Americans have the day off from work and school, and many families have picnics or make trips to the beach, parks or campgrounds. VOA
100th anniversary of Battle of Verdun
In solemn ceremonies Sunday in the forests of eastern France, French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel marked 100 years since the Battle of Verdun, determined to show that, despite the bloodbath of World War I, their countries’ improbable friendship is now a source of hope for today’s fractured Europe.
The 10-month battle at Verdun — the longest in World War I — killed 163,000 French and 143,000 German soldiers and wounded hundreds of thousands of others.
Between February and December 1916, an estimated 60 million shells were fired in the battle. One out of four didn’t explode. The front line villages destroyed in the fighting were never rebuilt. The battlefield zone still holds millions of unexploded shells, making the area so dangerous that housing and farming are still forbidden.
With no survivors left to remember, Sunday’s commemorations were focused on educating youth about the horrors and consequences of the war. Some 4,000 French and German children were taking part in the day’s events, which conclude at a mass grave where, in 1984, then-French President Francois Mitterrand took then-German Chancellor Helmut Kohl’s hand in a breakthrough moment of friendship and trust by longtime enemy nations. VOA
US Presidential election
Gary Johnson wins Libertarian presidential nomination: Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson won the Libertarian Party’s presidential nomination Sunday. He secured the win on the second ballot of the Orlando, Florida, convention with 55.8 percent of the vote. Johnson, also the Libertarian Party’s pick in 2012, has been polling in the double digits against both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. The Hill, ABC News, The Week
Motorcyclists tribute to US Military turns into a Trump rally: The Rolling Thunder caravan of motorcycles rolled into Washington Sunday, to support the US military on the country’s Memorial Day weekend, but it turned into a political rally for Donald Trump. As thousands of motorcyclists cheered their support, Trump vowed, “We have to rebuild our military. It’s been decimated.” But Trump made no mention of one of the controversies from early in his months-long run for the Republican nomination, when he said John McCain, was not a hero for being captured as a prisoner of war in Vietnam in the 1960s.
The annual Rolling Thunder event, first organized in 1988, is billed as a tribute to prisoners of war and Americans missing in action, a day ahead of Memorial Day Monday, when the United States honors its war dead. VOA
Rubio now all in for Trump: In March, Marco Rubio dismissed Donald Trump as a “con artist” and “the most vulgar person ever to aspire to the presidency.” This past week, the Florida senator told reporters he’ll not only vote for Trump, he’d be willing to speak on his behalf at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland this summer. And he didn’t rule out the possibility of serving in a Trump administration. USA Today
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