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<May 2015>


Heavy rains, flooding plague Texas and Oklahoma
Six people have been killed in four days. Among the dead was a teen driving home from her prom.

Texans scramble to recover after 'wall of water' hits
CNN's Ed Lavandera is in Marcos, Texas, where residents are searching for those still missing after nearly 400 homes were washed away by flooding.

B.B. King's daughters allege he was poisoned
Family members allege foul play in blues legend's death, but initial autopsy report doesn't back the claims.

Current Weather Conditions In Guthrie, OK
Fog, and 54 ° F. For more details?


News Wrap: Biden calls Iraq’s PM after Carter comments


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JUDY WOODRUFF: For the first time in 14 years, no American troops were involved in major ground combat on a Memorial Day. President Obama took note of that in his appearance at Arlington National Cemetery. He laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns and said the site is more than a final resting place for fallen heroes.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Each simple stone marker, arranged in perfect military precision, signifies the cost of our blessings. It is a debt we can never fully repay, but it is a debt we will never stop trying to fully repay by remaining a nation worthy of their sacrifice.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Another wreath-laying in Kabul paid tribute to more than 2,200 Americans killed in the Afghan war. Some 10,000 are still stationed there as advisers and trainers.

Vice President Biden sought to reassure Iraq’s prime minister today after a dust-up over fighting the Islamic State group. In a statement, White House officials said the vice president’s phone call — quote — “recognized the enormous sacrifice and bravery of Iraqi forces.”

That came after Defense Secretary Ash Carter had blamed the loss of Ramadi on Iraqi troops who ran away.

ASHTON CARTER, Secretary of Defense: They withdrew from the site. And that says to me, and I think to most of us, that we have an issue with the will of the Iraqis to fight ISIL and defend themselves.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Iraqi leaders condemned Carter’s statement, and a top commander in Iran charged today that, in fact, the U.S. lacks the white — rather, the will to fight ISIS.

There’s word that Cleveland has reached a settlement with the Justice Department over alleged police abuses. The New York Times reports that it involves a pattern of excessive use of force and unconstitutional actions. On Saturday, a judge acquitted a white Cleveland officer in a shooting barrage that killed two unarmed black suspects.

The governor of Texas declared disasters in two dozen counties today, after a weekend of catastrophic flooding and tornadoes. And the severe weather continued early today, as a storm blasted a Mexican city just across the Texas border.

The people of Ciudad Acuna awoke to the ravages of a tornado that tore through just after daybreak. Authorities reported more than a dozen people were killed. Farther north, lightning lit up the Kansas sky overnight, and outlined a twister moving across the open plain.

Together, they were the latest outbreaks from a massive weather system that stretched all the way from the Gulf of Mexico to the Great Lakes. In its wake came not only tornadoes, but severe flooding.

MAN: Here we go. Here we go. Whoa!

JUDY WOODRUFF: Central Texas bore the brunt, with creeks and rivers rapidly swelling, sweeping cars away.

MAN: Oh, my God. Oh, my God.

JUDY WOODRUFF: At least a dozen people were missing after flash flooding sent the Blanco River rising 26 feet in an hour.

KHARLEY SMITH, Emergency Coordinator, Hays County: We do have 12 missing persons that we are actively searching for. We have additional concerns, where we are gathering information from reporting parties to make sure that the residents are missing or are not missing.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Across Texas, hundreds of homes were destroyed, and nearly 2,000 people were forced to move to higher ground.

PEGGY WELBORE: They have lost everything, their cars, their furniture, everything. And it’s just amazing. I can’t even begin to let it all sink in. I don’t think I want to know just yet.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Severe flooding also hit the Dallas area, and the governor warned, Texas is not out of the woods yet.

GOV. GREG ABBOTT, (R) Texas: It sends a powerful message to anyone who is in harm’s way over entire state of Texas over the coming days as we see ongoing rain, and that is the relentless tsunami-type power that this wave of water can pose for people.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And the rain did keep falling in Houston and elsewhere, further damaging apartments and homes that had been torn open by a tornado on Sunday. The storms are blamed for at least three deaths in Oklahoma and Texas.

In India, there was no break in extreme heat that’s killed more than 500 people in recent weeks. Temperatures in one northern state reached 116 degrees on Sunday. People suffering from dehydration inundated hospitals that were battling power outages. And streets in several major cities were abandoned as people sought out shade.

National police in Malaysia report they have found 139 mass graves, and signs of torture, in more than two dozen camps where traffickers once held migrants. Investigators carried away body parts today from one site at the border with Thailand. It’s believed Rohingya Muslims who’d fled Myanmar were kept there.

China sharply criticized the U.S. today in a diplomatic row over the disputed South China Sea. Beijing complained after a U.S. reconnaissance plane flew over the Spratly Islands, where the Chinese are building bases, despite international protests

HUA CHUNYING, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman (through interpreter): The U.S. military aircraft’s spying on China’s islands could easily cause miscalculation and was very dangerous and irresponsible. I want to emphasize that China’s determination to protect its national sovereignty and territorial integrity is as firm as a rock.

JUDY WOODRUFF: A tabloid owned by the Chinese Communist Party’s official newspaper went even further. It said war with the U.S. is inevitable, unless Washington backs off.

Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was sentenced today to more jail time. He got eight months in prison for taking illegal payments from a U.S. businessman. It happened when he was mayor of Jerusalem. Olmert had already received a separate six-year sentence for taking bribes.

Back in this country, anonymous threats targeted airliners bound for New York. U.S. fighter jets escorted one Air France flight to Kennedy Airport after claims of a chemical weapon on board. That plane was eventually searched and cleared. And then authorities searched a flight from Saudi Arabian Airlines because of another call. An American Airlines flight from England was also threatened.

And comedian Anne Meara died over the weekend after a long career in TV, movies and the stage. Meara and husband Jerry Stiller were a hit comedy duo in the 1960s before she went on to a series of acting roles. In 2006, she joined son Ben Stiller in the movie “Night at the Museum.” Anne Meara was 85 years old.


The post News Wrap: Biden calls Iraq’s PM after Carter comments appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

Are strained relations with Iraq hurting the fight against Islamic State?

U.S. Military Trains Iraqi Army

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JUDY WOODRUFF: We turn now to the fight for Iraq and the growing tensions the rise of the Islamic State has roiled up.

Joining me is Douglas Ollivant. He’s a former military planner in Iraq who served on the National Security Council under President Obama and President George W. Bush. He’s now a senior national security fellow at the New America Foundation and partner at Mantid International.

Doug Ollivant, welcome back to the NewsHour.

DOUGLAS OLLIVANT, New America Foundation: Good evening.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, we have these comments from the secretary of defense over the weekend saying that the Iraqi troops ran away, that they didn’t have the will to fight. But then you had today the vice president, Biden, calling the Iraqi prime minister to say, no, Iraqi troops are doing a great job.

Which is it?

DOUGLAS OLLIVANT: Well, and just a few weeks ago, we had Secretary Kerry saying that he was sure that Ramadi was going to be reclaimed.

So, clearly, we have Secretary Carter as an outlier in the U.S. government position, which of course sometimes just means you’re saying inconvenient things that people don’t want to hear. There are clearly problems with the Iraqi army. They need to be addressed, but the counterpoint is also true.

The Iraqi army was in Ramadi for a year-and-a-half and did fight off the Islamic State there for a year-and-a-half, and, if we’re to believe the accounts, really were at the receiving end of a well-planned, well-executed attack by the Islamic State that involved a number of very, very large explosive car bombs, some of which were said to be the sides of those in the Oklahoma City bombing, literally kind of leveling blocks or at least large buildings, an assault that any military force would have a hard time with.

So there is some truth to what the secretary is saying, but at the same time, the indignation on the part of the Iraqis is very valid. Some of these soldiers have fought very well.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But in terms of whether they were well-supplied, whether they had the training they needed, where is the answer to that? Because we have looked at — the U.S. has been providing support and yet these troops still are not able to do the job.

DOUGLAS OLLIVANT: That’s undeniably true.

There has been a lot of support given. These troops in Ramadi had not been trained by the United States, but you would hope the Iraqis would be able to generate their own training devices at some point. But there are clearly problems with leadership. We’re hearing rumors that these soldiers had not been paid. There are systematic problems still with the Iraqi government.

We have to remember, this is still a relatively new government. It’s only been around for a decade or so, only truly sovereign for really the last three years since we have departed, and they’re still learning how to do this.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, we know there is now criticism coming up from all quarters in terms of whether the administration approach is the correct one and whether the administration ought to doing more, ought to be doing something different. How do you read all this?

DOUGLAS OLLIVANT: Well, certainly, there’s a lot of criticism. And any time you have a setback, criticism is inevitable.

It is very clear the Islamic State had a very good weekend last weekend in the retaking of Ramadi. And, of course, that does call for you to reflect. But I think, in general, the administration is on the right path. We need to be training, we need to be arming, we need to be supporting. We may need to do a little more of all of that, but, in general, we need to continue to work through the Iraqis to get the Islamic State out of Iraq.

Having us do it might be more efficient, but there are so many negative second-order effects of that. That is just undesirable.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Douglas Ollivant, is it just a matter of being patient?

DOUGLAS OLLIVANT: I think, in some ways, that’s exactly it.

It’s going to take time to get the Islamic State pushback out of Iraq. Prime Minister Abadi says that he’s going to have — take Ramadi back in days. I think that’s an exaggeration, but it wouldn’t surprise me if they take it back in four to six to eight weeks, the type of timeline that they used for the Tikrit attack.

And we have to remember they have had a series of successes in Tikrit, before that in Amirli, before that in Jurf Al Sakhar. You have had the various Iraqi security forces and/or the militias pushing back the Islamic State out of these key urban areas.

JUDY WOODRUFF: I think it’s hard for many people to keep track of where things stand with regard to the Sunni-Shia split that still exists in Iraq, but do you have the sense that the prime minister, Prime Minister Abadi, is doing the best he can to get the Sunnis engaged with this fight, or is there still this sort of unbridgeable divide between the two?

LT. COL. DOUGLAS OLLIVANT: Well, I think Prime Minister Abadi is very much reaching out to the Sunni, trying to reach across the aisle, trying to make the deal, so much so that he’s often accused by his Shia Arab base of abandoning them and their concerns and being more concerned about the 20 percent minority of Arab Sunni than about the 60, 65 percent that are Arab Shia.

But he is reaching across. The question is, does he have the political capital to continue to do that and can he really hold his own base while reaching across the aisle?

JUDY WOODRUFF: Just quick final question. What’s the thinking in terms of what more the U.S. could do to help these Iraqi troops?

DOUGLAS OLLIVANT: I think continuing to provide weapons, continue to get more missiles.

The Iraqi forces that were in Ramadi didn’t have the anti-tank missiles that they needed to stop these vehicle-borne, these explosive car bombs from attacking their positions. It wouldn’t hurt to have more unarmed surveillance drones. If we were to push those, then the Iranians wouldn’t have to provide them. That’s a way for us to kind of use a chess move against the Iranian influence in Iraq, which we do need to be concerned about.

So there are a series of things we can do, but essentially it’s more of what we’re doing, more training, more equipping, more intelligence support.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Douglas Ollivant, we thank you.

DOUGLAS OLLIVANT: Thank you, Judy.

The post Are strained relations with Iraq hurting the fight against Islamic State? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

Can lawmakers come up with a deal for U.S. surveillance rules?

TRADE DEAL  monitor capitol dome

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JUDY WOODRUFF: And now we look at what’s next for the rules governing U.S. surveillance.

Over the weekend, the Senate failed to extend three key provisions of the Patriot Act set to expire in a week. They headed out of town for a recess, leaving little time left to come to consensus.

To help us understand what lies ahead, NewsHour political director Lisa Desjardins joins us.

So, Lisa, what happened? They were there into the wee hours Saturday morning, and this — is the Patriot Act hanging by a thread?

LISA DESJARDINS: This was a test for new Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. He took a very strategic risk here, Judy, something that has worked in the past for both sides, and he set a high-stakes vote on a deadline when Congress was going out of town.

That worked with things like the debt limit, the fiscal cliff. Did not work this time. It was blocked by Rand Paul and some Democrats, notably Ron Wyden of Oregon, some other conservatives as well. It came to that midnight vote and they could not get 60 votes for any one kind of agreement, though it is important to note that on the major votes that happened in that midnight session, one vote did turn out better than the other.

That’s the vote for the revised version of the surveillance powers, one that would limit what the NSA could do. That’s called the USA Freedom Act. That was just three votes short, vs. a straight extension with 15 votes short.

And one thing I noticed, real quickly, Judy, is that that — the division in the Republican Party on these votes was on geographic lines. You looked at Southern senators, Midwestern senators, they all wanted a straight extension. If you have looked at senators, say, in the Southwest, they were willing to revise.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Clearly, Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, didn’t want this to happen. What went wrong?

LISA DESJARDINS: I think that it was really just a showdown over how the Senate works.

Rand Paul was able to use the power of a single senator and a few other senators. And the truth is, a single senator can hold up the Senate for three or four days. Mitch McConnell could have kept the Senate going for three or four days and run the clock, but he didn’t.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, just quickly, Lisa, they come back Sunday, an unusual Sunday session at the end of the Memorial week break.


JUDY WOODRUFF: What needs to happen then? And, meantime, the government has to start planning to cut back on surveillance.

LISA DESJARDINS: First of all, senators need to buy their plane tickets. A lot of these Western senators, to come back by Sunday at 4:00, have got to start planning now.

But, meanwhile, we’re going to have very serious talks over the phone, probably starting Wednesday, Thursday, to see if they can come up with a deal. And, Judy, really, there’s no known solution right now. It’s possible we could see these provisions expire at least for a short time. Completely unknown right now.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, we will be watching it all week.

Lisa Desjardins, thank you.


The post Can lawmakers come up with a deal for U.S. surveillance rules? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.