Dispatches > News
Reuters/Landov • Inset: Safin Hamed/AFP/Getty Images

Dispatches

News

Issue: "2014 Books Issue," June 28, 2014

JUNE 10: Insurgents overran the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, the country’s second largest city, underlining the tenuous control the Iraqi government holds in the country. The militants, from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, reportedly released thousands of prisoners from jails while Iraqi police and military fled—along with a half million residents. Militants also captured U.S.-supplied equipment from the Iraqi military, like Humvees. The city is in the heart of the historically Christian area of Nineveh: “Ninety-nine percent of the Christians have left Mosul,” said pastor Haitham Jazrawi of Kirkuk.

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Thursday, May 29

Shelly and Donald Sterling
Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images
Shelly and Donald Sterling

Clippers sold

Shelly Sterling, the wife of Los Angeles Clippers co-owner Donald Sterling, agreed to sell the NBA team to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer for a record-breaking $2 billion. The deal allows the Sterlings to avoid a hearing where, with approval from three-quarters of NBA team owners, the league would have taken ownership of the team and sold it. The league called the hearing after charging Sterling with damaging the NBA through racist comments that were recorded and publicized. Donald Sterling has filed a separate $1 billion lawsuit against the league over the recording, the sale of the team, and the $2.5 million fine the league levied on him. He bought the Clippers in 1981 for $12 million. The Sunday after the deal, Sterling attended the worship service of a predominantly African-American church in Los Angeles with cameras in tow.

Back on YouTube 

Turkey restored access to YouTube after the country’s highest court ruled the ban was a violation of free speech. Turkey’s government had banned access to YouTube and Twitter days before March 30 local elections. The high court had reversed the ban on Twitter in early May. Before the ban, the websites leaked a secret wiretap of a conversation between top government officials. 

Shot down 

Pro-Russian rebels shot down a Ukrainian military helicopter in the Donetsk region, part of the country’s fractious east. The crash killed 14 people including a general, according to Ukraine’s acting president Oleksandr Turchynov. Turchynov suggested that Russia had supplied arms to the rebels, a charge Russia has denied. 

Trust issues 

A group of atheists was preparing to continue its legal campaign to take the words “In God We Trust” off the nation’s currency a day after the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the effort. The three-judge panel ruled that the motto does “not have a religious purpose or advance religion, nor does [it] place a substantial burden on appellants’ religious practices.” Freedom From Religion Foundation co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor argued that the motto does advance religion and burden atheists, and she says she plans to bring cases in other districts. “It’s not even an accurate motto,” she said. “To be accurate, it would have to say, ‘In God Some of Us Trust,’ and wouldn’t that be silly?”

Friday, May 30

Eric Shinseki
Win McNamee/Getty Images
Eric Shinseki

Shinseki resigns

A damning inspector general’s report on the Veterans Affairs department prompted Eric Shinseki to resign as head of the agency. The report followed similar reports over the last decade of chronic mismanagement, fraud, and long wait times at veterans’ hospitals nationwide. At the VA medical center in Phoenix, more than 1,700 veterans seeking care never made it to a waiting list, and nationwide 64,000 new veterans requesting appointments never got them. The wait times—and falsified appointment records—are tied to 23 deaths. Members of Congress called for an FBI investigation into the cover-up and deaths, as the House debated a measure allowing veterans to receive covered care from non-VA doctors. 

Medicare changes 

A Department of Health and Human Services board ruled that Medicare could cover sex-change surgeries after Denee Mallon, 74, born a man, had filed a lawsuit to have Medicare cover such an operation. Few seniors covered under Medicare are likely to seek sex change operations—demographer Gary Gates of The Williams Institute, an LGBT issues think tank in Los Angeles, has estimated 0.3 percent of the U.S. population identify as transgender. But the ruling adds to pressures on insurance companies to cover such operations.

Monday, June 2

Bowe Bergdahl
U.S. Army via Getty Images
Bowe Bergdahl

Bergdahl released

President Barack Obama in a Rose Garden press conference announced the release of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl from five years of Taliban captivity. The United States agreed to exchange five Taliban operatives from Guantanamo Bay for Bergdahl, but that was just the beginning of the controversy. Some members of Bergdahl’s platoon alleged that he deserted his post after becoming disaffected with America, and that at least six soldiers died as a result of the search for him. Bergdahl grew up in an Orthodox Presbyterian family, but struggled to accept his family’s faith as he grew older, according to his former pastor. Bergdahl is currently receiving medical and psychological treatment, after which the Army has said it will review the circumstances of his disappearance. 

Going after coal 

The Environmental Protection Agency announced its long-anticipated rule to address climate change. The new rule would require power plants to reduce their carbon emissions by 30 percent compared to their 2005 levels. In practice, different states will have different target levels for reductions, but the national goal is a 30 percent reduction. Opponents said higher electricity costs resulting from the rule would hurt the economy and particularly low-income families.

Tuesday, June 3

Chris McDaniel
Associated Press/Photo by George Clark
Chris McDaniel

Primary do-over

Even after the Tuesday primary, Mississippi remained ground zero in the ongoing Republican primary battle between the tea party and the GOP establishment. State Sen. Chris McDaniel, the tea party challenger, didn’t quite garner the 50 percent threshold needed to avoid a runoff against six-term U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran. This hard-fought Republican primary is being watched closely because many believe it represents the tea party’s best chance at unseating a veteran senator during this election cycle. The group had endured many defeats this primary season after enjoying several upsets in 2010 and 2012. Mississippi voters return to the polls on June 24.

Abortion unburdened 

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck an Arizona law passed in 2012 that requires abortion doctors to follow Food and Drug Administration guidelines when conducting medical abortions. The court said the law places an undue burden on women seeking abortions. The ruling contradicts similar rulings from other circuit courts, which could push the issue to the Supreme Court. 

Wednesday, June 4

Wang Yi
Handout
Wang Yi

China crackdown

On the 25th anniversary of the massacre in Tiananmen Square, the Chinese government cracked down on at least one house church. Police rearrested Pastor Wang Yi of Chengdu Early Rain Reformed Church on Wednesday morning as his church planned to hold a meeting to pray for China. Congregants said the police then shut off the power to the office building where the church meets and posted signs that it was under maintenance. Church leaders emailed congregants to pray in their small groups instead.

Eighth man out 

Shutting Russia out, the Group of Seven nations–the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Canada, and Japan–met in Brussels. After Russia’s annexation of Crimea, the seven nations in March removed Russia from the Group of Eight, which had been scheduled to meet in Sochi, Russia. President Barack Obama, speaking in Poland the day the G-7 meetings began, condemned Russia directly: “The stroke of a pen can never legitimize the theft of a neighbor’s land. So we will not accept Russia’s occupation of Crimea or its violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty. Our free nations will stand united so that further Russian provocations will only mean more isolation and costs for Russia.” Obama promised to increase the U.S. military presence in Europe as a sign of solidarity with the EU against potential Russian aggression.

Thursday, June 5

Coalition for Life of Iowa member prays outside the Planned Parenthood clinic in Cedar Rapids, Iowa 
Associated Press/Photo by Charlie Neibergall
Coalition for Life of Iowa member prays outside the Planned Parenthood clinic in Cedar Rapids, Iowa 

Closing clinics

Planned Parenthood announced plans to close two of its abortion centers in Iowa, which were among the first in the country to prescribe medical abortions by videoconference. It will refer women to nine remaining abortion centers, including some that still offer abortion pill prescriptions by video. Planned Parenthood said it closed the centers to “eliminate inefficiency in resources.” Pro-lifers who had held prayer vigils outside the centers celebrated. “I think it’s good news for babies in Red Oak and Creston,” said Sue Thayer, a former Planned Parenthood center manager and now pro-life advocate, in comments to The Des Moines Register.

Divorce offensive 

A new law in Oklahoma would require some married couples with children to attend a class before obtaining a divorce in the state. The program would educate parents about the effect of divorce on children and urge reconciliation. Oklahoma has one of the highest divorce rates in the country.

Burwell takes over 

After a quiet and quick confirmation process, the Senate voted 78-17 to confirm Sylvia Mathews Burwell as the new secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS). Burwell previously served as the White House budget director, and will attempt to lead implementation of Obamacare. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell called her “a new captain for the Titanic.”

Friday, June 6

Obamacare price hikes 

A study from the University of Minnesota estimated average insurance rates on national health exchanges will increase by more than $4,000 per year per family in the next five years. The study used the government’s own Obamacare enrollment data and received part of its funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In the next 10 years, the cost of insurance plans will rise more quickly than the government subsidies families receive, leading to more individuals being uninsured or on Medicaid, the study said. 

Attacks continue 

Reports emerged of Boko Haram attacks on villages in northern Nigeria where militants killed hundreds. The Islamic militants posed as soldiers there to protect villagers, but then opened fire while shouting, “Allahu akbar,” Arabic for “God is greater.” Word of the attacks spread slowly because roads out of the area are dangerous and phone connections are poor or nonexistent. The United States has sent 80 military advisers to Nigeria and neighboring Chad to aid in the rescue of 300 schoolgirls whom Boko Haram kidnapped, but the security situation has only deteriorated.

Sunday, June 8

Associated Press/Photo by Charlie Neibergall

Karachi attack

Ten Pakistani Taliban militants launched a sophisticated attack against the international airport in Karachi, a city of 18 million people. The attack left 36 dead: airport security officials and staff as well as the militants themselves. The militants never reached the passengers inside the terminal, and flights were diverted. Pakistan’s interior minister said the group was seeking to blow up planes and take passengers as hostages. The attack showed the resilience of the Pakistani Taliban and ended speculation of peace talks between the Taliban and the Pakistani government.

Tennis champ 

Spaniard Rafael Nadal won an unprecedented ninth French Open and continued his dominance on Paris’ tough clay court. The three-and-a-half-hour match was so grueling that Nadal’s rival, Novak Djokovic, was sick to his stomach partway through. Nadal, 28, is the top-ranked tennis player in the world and trails only Roger Federer for all-time Grand Slam victories. 

Tuesday, June 10

Eric Cantor
Associated Press/Photo by Steve Helber
Eric Cantor

Upset in Virginia 

U.S. Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., on June 10 became the first sitting House majority leader to lose a primary race—and he lost it badly. Tea party challenger David Brat, a little-known economics professor, won 56 percent of the vote despite having raised only $207,000 compared to Cantor’s raising of $5.44 million. Brat framed the race as a battle over immigration: “A vote for Eric Cantor on June 10th,” he said two days before the primary, “is a vote for open borders and lower wages.” He accused the seven-term congressman of working with “multinational corporations to boost the inflow of low-wage guest workers to reduce Virginians’ wages and employment opportunities.” In another June 10 primary, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and a prominent supporter of the Senate’s “Gang of Eight” immigration overhaul, defeated several GOP challengers to win the party’s nomination to run for a third Senate term.

Ferry crew trial

Fifteen crew members from the South Korean ferry that sank in April, killing almost 300 mostly teenage passengers, went on trial before a judge on charges that range from negligence to homicide. Capt. Lee Joon-seok, 68, and three others face the death penalty if convicted. Officials determined the doomed ferry was carrying too much cargo and made a sharp turn while traveling too fast. The captain’s lawyer argued that he had no control over the company’s practice of overloading the ferry.

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