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John Kerry, the US secretary of state, has urged Iraq's leaders to stand united against an Islamist insurgency that has reached the outskirts of Baghdad after routing the Iraqi army in the north.
Kerry reiterated Washington's support for Iraqi forces, saying US backing will be "intense and sustained" after holding almost two hours of talks with Nouri al-Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister, in Baghdad. The US has criticised Maliki for fuelling the insurgency in northern Iraq by alienating the Sunni minority. While the US has not said publicly that Maliki should make way for a less divisive figure, Iraqi officials say such a message has been delivered behind the scenes.
At his press conference, however, Kerry insisted that no country – including the US – has the right to pick Iraq's leaders. "That is up to the people of Iraq," he said, adding that Maliki had reaffirmed his commitment to form a new government by 1 July.
Kerry said on Sunday the US would not choose the government in Baghdad, but added that it had noted the dissatisfaction among Kurds, Sunnis and some Shias with Maliki's leadership.
Washington's top diplomat, John Kerry, flew in to Baghdad on Monday for a face-to-face meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Malaki. Their discussion lasted more than an hour and a half.
According to a statement from the prime minister's office, al-Maliki told Kerry that the recent onslaught led by jihadists from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) "represents a threat not only to Iraq but to regional and international peace."
Al-Maliki's Shiite-dominated government has been accused of fueling the crisis by excluding Sunni Muslims from power and pursuing a sectarian agenda. It's something Kerry was expected to bring up in the closed-door talks. He told journalists afterward that Iraq's leaders faced a "moment of decision."
"Iraq faces an existential threat and Iraq's leaders have to meet that threat," Kerry said on Monday.
After meeting al-Maliki, Kerry was also scheduled to meet influential Shiite clerics and Parliament Speaker Osama al-Nujaifi, one of Iraq's highest-ranking Sunnis, along with Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, who is a Kurd.
Iraq's parliament is working to set up a new government following elections in April.
As Sunni militants make gains against Iraq's Shiite-led central government, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry paid a previously unannounced visit to Baghdad to meet with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on Monday.
Maliki has been criticized for not being more inclusive of Sunnis and Kurds in his government — a change the Obama administration is calling for as part of any plans for military support.
"The Obama administration has been hard-pressing the Iraqi leader to create a more inclusive government," NPR's Jackie Northam reports from Baghdad. "It's felt that Maliki's marginalization of Iraq's Kurdish and Sunni communities has helped spawn the violence we're seeing now in the north of the country and the west."
WASHINGTON — The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria sprang from a largely self-funded, corporation-style prototype whose resilience to counterterrorism operations was proven by the time Abu Bakr al Baghdadi assumed command in 2010.
The militant group Baghdadi inherited had in place a sophisticated bureaucracy that was almost obsessive about record-keeping. Its middle-managers detailed, for example, the number of wives and children each fighter had, to gauge compensation rates upon death or capture, and listed expenditures in neat Excel spreadsheets that noted payments to an “assassination platoon” and “Al Mustafa Explosives Company.” Income from the Sunni Muslim militants’ looting of Shiite Muslim-owned property was recorded as “spoils.”
By the time Baghdadi took charge, the group even had begun siphoning a share of Iraq’s oil wealth, opening gas stations in the north, smuggling oil and extorting money from industry contractors _ enterprises that Baghdadi would build on and replicate as he expanded operations across the border into Syria, ultimately breaking from his al Qaida roots and declaring himself emir of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
Sunni rebels in Iraq say they have fully captured the country's main oil refinery at Baiji, north of Baghdad.
The refinery had been under siege for 10 days with the militant offensive being repulsed several times.
The complex supplies a third of Iraq's refined fuel and the battle has already led to petrol rationing.
Insurgents, led by the group Isis, have overrun a swathe of territory north and west of Baghdad including Iraq's second-biggest city, Mosul.
They are bearing down on a vital dam near Haditha and have captured all border crossings to Syria and Jordan.
A rebel spokesman said the Baiji refinery, in Salahuddin province, would now be handed over to local tribes to administer.
The spokesman said that the advance towards Baghdad would continue.
A magnitude 8.0 earthquake struck deep under the ocean floor near Alaska's Aleutian Islands, triggering shaking that could be felt for vast distances and briefly prompting a tsunami warning, the National Tsunami Warning Center said.
The tsunami warning, later downgraded to an advisory, prompted the evacuation of about 200 residents of the town of Adak to higher ground, city manager Layton Lockett said. It was not immediately clear whether the quake caused injuries or damage.
The quake was so large and deep that it triggered dozens of aftershocks within an hour and prompted enough shaking that it will be picked up by seismometers around the world over the next 24 hours, said Mike West, a seismologist who serves as director of the Alaska Earthquake Center.
With its ales, dartboards, Chelsea FC memorabilia and replica-kitted fans avidly watching the World Cup on an array of screens, the Brewery Tap could be anywhere in west London.
But the pub is in downtown Houston, Texas, with the languid Buffalo Bayou just to the rear and the skyscraping headquarters of oil and gas corporations leering over its entrance.
Clogged with expats who suffer through England games, the Tap has also become a gathering place for Americans who are discovering in ever-growing numbers that US matches can deliver the same kind of patriotic, communal big-event experience normally associated with the Super Bowl.
There is nothing new in fans across America uniting to watch and talk about the World Cup, but anecdotal evidence and television ratings suggest that they are doing so now more than ever. And that means this tournament is another step forward on the sport’s arduous trudge towards the mainstream.
Hospitals across the country are struggling with a shortage of one of their essential medical supplies.
Manufacturers are rationing saline solution — essentially pharmaceutical-grade saltwater. The stuff is used all around hospitals to clean wounds, mix medications or treat dehydration. Now drug companies say they won't be able to catch up with demand until next year.
That leaves San Francisco General Hospital's materials manager, Reid Kennedy, in a fix. Kennedy is in charge of managing all the gloves, bandages, bedpans and IV solutions for the emergency room, medical floors and operating room.
He got a call last year from his vendor telling him it might not be able to deliver his full order.
"We were put on notice that it was going to be tight," he says, walking through the basement warehouse.
Then things got worse in January. The flu season hit much harder than expected, and sick people flooded into hospitals. Saline bags flew off the shelves to treat dehydration. Demand far outstripped supply.
President Barack Obama will use a White House conference on working families Monday to issue an executive action allowing federal employees to request flexible hours without fear of retaliation.
Although the conference is scheduled to be more of a forum for discussion rather than a policy rollout, Obama will announce several efforts to extend protections to mothers, fathers and pregnant women who work in public and private sector jobs.
None of the president’s announcements are entirely new policy, but extend existing law. For example, the executive action is directed toward implementing flexible work policies currently on the books “to the maximum possible extent.”
The Obama administration hopes that doing so will alter the “national conversation” and “culture,” which stigmatizes asking for flexible work, White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett said in a call with reporters on Sunday.
Several administration officials cited limits on Obama's unilateral authority and called on Congress to pass legislation that promotes work-life balance.
U.S. home resales rose more than expected in May and the stock of properties for sale was the highest in more than 1-1/2 years, suggesting that housing was pulling out of a recent slump.
The National Association of Realtors said on Monday existing home sales increased 4.9 percent to an annual rate of 4.89 million units. May's increase was the largest since August 2011.
"The housing market has quite some ways to go to recover its recent sluggishness, but positive momentum in the sector suggests that housing has begun to show signs of life," said Gennadiy Goldberg, an economist at TD Securities in New York.
Argentina asked a U.S. judge on Monday to issue a stay of his ruling against the country in its case against "holdout" creditors, as it sought to avoid a new default that would further punish an economy already slipping into recession.
The move is the latest twist in a 12-year-old battle with investors who refused to take part in bond restructurings after Argentina failed to pay about $100 billion of debt in 2002.
Without a stay on a ruling by U.S. District Judge Thomas Griesa, Argentina would be legally barred from making a June 30 coupon payment on its restructured bonds unless it pays $1.33 billion to holdouts seeking full payment of the debt they hold.
Al Jazeera America
A federal appeals court on Monday released a previously secret memo in which the U.S. Department of Justice provided legal justification for using drones to kill Americans suspected of links to Al-Qaeda operations overseas.
The memo concluded that the September 2011 drone strike that killed Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S.-born Al-Qaeda leader, was legally justified. The memo said that because the U.S. government considered Awlaki to be an "operational leader" of an "enemy force," it was legal for the CIA to attack him with a drone as part of the United States' ongoing “armed conflict with Al-Qaeda," even though he was a U.S. citizen.
The memo, initially drafted in 2010, said the killing was further justified under Congressional authorization for the use of U.S. military force following the Sept. 11 attacks.
The document noted that the authority to use lethal force abroad might apply in appropriate circumstances to a U.S. citizen who is part of the forces of an enemy organization. It said the Awlaki killing in Yemen was justified as long as it was carried out in accord with applicable laws of war.
The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan released the memo, portions of which are blacked out, after the American Civil Liberties Union and The New York Times filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.
More than two dozen children in California were rescued during a week-long nationwide crackdown on commercial sex trafficking, federal officials announced Monday.
State, local and federal officials also arrested at least 38 alleged pimps in California during the crackdown, dubbed "Operation Cross Country," according to an FBI statement.
The children were found in the Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego and Sacramento areas.
Nationwide, law enforcement officials in 106 cities recovered 168 children who had been forced into prostitution, and arrested 281 pimps.
Leslie R. Caldwell, assistant attorney general for the criminal division of the U.S. Department of Justice, said in a statement that child sex traffickers "use fear and force and treat children as commodities of sex."
"Child sex traffickers create a living nightmare for their adolescent victims,” Caldwell said.
An all-male panel of Mormon leaders has found a prominent member of the group Ordain Women guilty of apostasy and ordered that she be excommunicated from the church.
On its website, Ordain Women quoted from an email that Kate Kelly received informing her of the decision by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints:
"Our determination is that you be excommunicated for conduct contrary to the laws and order of the Church," the email said, adding that she may no longer "wear temple garments or contribute tithes and offerings ... take the sacrament, hold a Church calling, give a talk in Church, offer a public prayer in behalf of the class or congregation in a Church meeting, or vote in the sustaining of Church officers."
However, the email said that she could be readmitted after a year "if you show true repentance and satisfy the conditions imposed below while you are no longer a member, you may be readmitted by baptism and confirmation."
The website says that Kelly did not attend the June 22 hearing and that she was convicted in absentia.
A highly anticipated review of the child sex abuse case against Jerry Sandusky released on Monday found delays in prosecuting the former Penn State football coach but no evidence of political interference by Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett during his time as attorney general.
Sandusky was convicted in 2012 of molesting 10 boys over 15 years and is serving a prison sentence of 30 to 60 years.
The report, compiled by former federal prosecutor Geoffrey Moulton, said there were “inexplicable delays in bringing a serial child molester to justice."
Attorney General Kathleen Kane, who released the report, has argued criminal charges should have been brought sooner and that Corbett failed to protect children for more than two years.
Two boys became new victims of Sandusky in 2009, months after the attorney general began to investigate, she said at a news conference. They were not among the 10 boys Sandusky stood trial for abusing, nor were they mentioned in the report.
Western diplomats believe that leading Cossacks could be behind the abduction of two teams of OSCE observers in eastern Ukraine, SPIEGEL has learned. A leading Cossack in the Russian parliament could have the power to free them.
Two teams from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) have now been held hostage in eastern Ukraine for almost an entire month. But who exactly is holding the nine observers -- and why -- has largely remained a mystery. Now, Western diplomats involved in negotiations to free the teams believe influential circles in Russia could be behind the kidnappings.
Direct contact with the kidnappers suggests that the men and women are being held by rebel commander and businessman Nikolai Kozitsyn in two different locations in eastern Ukraine, Perevalsk and Sievierodonetsk. A man of substantial influence in the Luhansk Oblast, where the two towns are located, Kozitsyn is part of the ethnic-cultural leadership of the Cossacks in Ukraine.
Egypt's judiciary has dealt a shocking blow to the principle of free speech after three journalists for Al-Jazeera English were sentenced to between seven and 10 years in jail on charges of aiding terrorists and endangering national security.
The former BBC correspondent Peter Greste, from Australia, the ex-CNN journalist Mohamed Fahmy, and local producer Baher Mohamed were jailed for seven, seven and 10 years respectively. Four students and activists indicted in the case were sentenced to seven years.
The judge also handed 10-year sentences to the British journalists Sue Turton and Dominic Kane and the Dutch journalist Rena Netjes, who were not in Egypt but were tried in absentia.
The courtroom packed with journalists, diplomats and relatives erupted at the verdict which came despite what independent observers said was a complete lack of evidence.
Shouting from the defendants' cage as he was led away, Fahmy, a Canadian-Egyptian citizen, said: "They'll pay for this." Greste's reaction could not be heard, but the faces of his two younger brothers – both present in court – were grim.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says they "have a lot" of proof that Hamas is behind the kidnapping of three Israeli teens, which includes one dual U.S.-Israeli citizen.
"We've pretty much figured out who are the kidnappers," Netanyahu said during an interview with NPR's Morning Edition. "The actual perpetrators, the supporters, the command structure and there's no question — these are members of Hamas. We've passed some of that information to the U.S. government and others. We'll make it public as soon as the investigation enables us to do that. Our — my number one goal right now is to bring back our three kidnapped boys."
During the interview, Netanyahu moved very quickly into the broader political question this case brings up. Essentially, Netanyahu said the kidnappings prove Hamas should not be considered a legitimate political player and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas should therefore renege on a deal with the group to form a unity government.
That's when the more interesting exchange in the conversation between NPR's Steve Inskeep and Netanyahu came about:
Malaysia's highest court has upheld a ruling by a lower court that non-Muslims cannot use the word "Allah" as a synonym for God. But the scope of Monday's decision by the Federal Court of Malaysia was unclear because the government issued a statement that said the ruling applied only to the Catholic newspaper that brought the case.
Last year, the country's Court of Appeals banned The Herald newspaper from using the word "Allah." The newspaper appealed, but the highest court said Monday that it won't hear the challenge, leaving in place the lower court ruling.
"We are disappointed," said Rev. Lawrence Andrew, editor of The Herald. "The four judges who denied us the right to appeal did not touch on fundamental basic rights of minorities."
His comments were reported by The Associated Press.
But the country's government issued a statement that appeared to leave open the use of the word "Allah" by non-Muslims.
Separatists in Ukraine have agreed to honor a ceasefire that went ignored over the weekend. The breakthrough came as Leonid Kuchma, Ukraine's president from 1994 to 2005, led a meeting to help end the fighting in the country's east, bringing together the Russian ambassador, separatist leaders and European officials.
Following the meeting, Alexander Borodai, the self-professed prime minister of the self-declared Donetsk People's Republic, announced that his separatist faction would abide by the ceasefire, as would an allied group from a nearby region.
"The consultation ended with authorities of the Luhansk and Donetsk republics agreeing to maintain a ceasefire for their part until the 27th," Borodai said Monday.
EU leaders have urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to support Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko's peace plan, which he has called unviable. World leaders have accused Russia of fomenting the rebellion in the east by sending troops and weapons across the border - allegations denied by Kremlin officials.
Israel's army said on Monday it had detained another 37 Palestinians overnight as it searched for three missing teenagers and extended a crackdown on the Hamas Islamist group it accuses of kidnapping them.
There were no reports of clashes between the soldiers and Palestinians in the raids in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, where the military says it has detained 361 people since the Israeli students went missing on June 12.
The crisis has aggravated tensions in the West Bank which, along with East Jerusalem and the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, the Palestinians want as part of a future state.
An Israeli military spokeswoman said the latest operations took place in Jenin, a militant stronghold, and in the Hebron area, close to where the three disappeared while hitchhiking.
"As part of ongoing operations, (Israeli) forces detained 37 suspects and searched 80 locations," the spokeswoman said.
Palestinian officials said Israeli soldiers also entered Bethlehem and Nablus.
Al Jazeera America
Regulations designed to reduce air pollution in North Carolina have led not just to cleaner air but to fewer deaths from lung diseases, according to a new study report released Monday.
Researchers at Duke University reviewed 17 years of state air quality data and death records, and found a distinct correlation between the start of stricter pollution rules in 2002 and a marked decline in the number of people perishing from emphysema, asthma and pneumonia. The report was published in the International Journal of COPD.
The evidence pointing to the consequences of air pollution rules likely applies globally, the study’s head author said, adding that it puts into perspective the reason for tougher air quality rules: human health.
“If you ask people, ‘Should we improve air quality?’ it’s hard to get an handle on that,” said Kim Lyerly, a professor of surgery at Duke and the report’s senior author.
“But improving health and reducing deaths – it’s hard to argue that that’s not an important end point.”
The UN Environment Assembly (UNEA), initiated at the Rio summit in 2012, is meeting in Nairobi for the first time from June 23 - 27. UNEP chief Achim Steiner told DW about the new body and the issues on the agenda.
DW: What status does the new assembly give environment within the UN context?
Achim Steiner: This is the first reform since UNEP was established in 1972. The United Nations Environment Assembly UNEA has universal membership. That means every country, every observer state will be represented, thereby creating a forum that is far more representative, more authoritative and more legitimate in trying to take the environmental aspects of the broader sustainable development agenda forward.
Previously a rotating governing council from just 58 countries governed UNEP. This marks a strengthening and upgrading, a "coming of age" of environmentalism.
Last week, news emerged that a Greenpeace employee had lost millions in donor money through ill-conceived currency deals. Now the environmentalists are in danger of losing their biggest asset: their credibility.
On the day the scandal hit newspaper headlines, Greenpeace International Executive Director Kumi Naidoo didn't panic. A South African with Indian roots who grew up in a township under the Apartheid regime, a couple million missing euros was far from the worst Naidoo had seen.
Instead of tearing out his hair, Naidoo twittered cheerfully about a lecture he was giving on the dispersal of power. He wished other climate activists happy birthday and counselled "young people out there" not to "put any faith in the current generation of adult leaders."
With its large sand dunes, rivers, big lakes and seas, Saturn's biggest moon is one of the most Earth-like planetary bodies in the solar system. But Titan is no place to call home
The surface temperature is negative 290 degrees Fahrenheit, and each of its seasons lasts about seven Earth years. Sunsets on Titan would look orangey-brown, thanks to a thick haze that keeps light from reaching the surface. Water is scattered around as solid, icy pebbles.
It's one of Titan's northern seas that now has researchers excited — scientists say they're seeing the first signs of springtime changes even though the summer solstice is almost three years away.
The Ligeia Mare is named after a mythical siren who lured sailors to their deaths. It's cold, dark, and made of liquid natural gas. You could scoop some up and dunk it in the fuel tank of a bus.
Based on all the hype and sales numbers, you might presume that the world of Android users is dominated by folks with a flashy Samsung Galaxy S5 or Galaxy S4 in their hands. The truth seems to be that the public is much slower to upgrade to the latest and greatest phones.
There are over 3,500 unique types of devices running Google's Android mobile operating system in the United States, but the most popular model -- used by over 13 percent of American Android users when all the major carrier models are counted, according to data from HandsetDetection.com -- is the Samsung Galaxy S3, which was released two years ago. The next most popular device is the even older Motorola Droid Razr with 5 percent of users, according to the site, followed by the Samsung Galaxy S2 with nearly 5 percent.
In fact, the most "modern" smartphone to make HandsetDetection.com's top ten list of Android devices currently in use in the Samsung Galaxy Note II, with 1.5 percent of American users.
Amazon, as the e-commerce colossus is wont to do, released vague figures Monday about one of its new ventures -- the Prime Music streaming service -- and the stats tell us pretty much what you'd expect.
Amazon said that in the week following the introduction of Prime Music, which launched June 12 as a music arm to its $99-a-year Prime program, members streamed tens of millions of songs accounting for millions of hours of music. Members also added more than a million playlists -- curated compilations of about 20 to 50 songs -- to their music libraries.
That doesn't mean much, but here's what we can deduce: Some people who were already paying for Prime tried out the new feature, and the usage unsurprisingly pales to the biggest music streamer out there, Pandora -- the best benchmark available for comparison. Surprise!