An official dialogue will soon be underway. The White House will issue a presidential directive enabling the government to communicate with groups holding U.S. hostages. Ransoms and other “substantial concessions,” will remain forbidden but the directive also removes the threat of prosecution from citizens who pay ransoms to terrorist groups holding family members. The policy change also creates a “Hostage Recovery Fusion Cell,” to coordinate with families and better execute the government’s response to hostage situations. The formal announcement is expected after President Obama meets with the families of former hostages on Wednesday.
The Presidential Daily Brief
They may just have to keep on trucking. A work stoppage in the French town of Calais — a hotbed of migrants looking to cross into the more economically vibrant U.K. — has seen traffic chaos, with trucks inching toward the border fearing stowaways who might break into slow-moving vehicles. Train services were canceled after strikers started a trash-fire near the trucks, further disrupting traffic between Dover and Calais. U.K. authorities are now warning drivers to keep their big wheels turning — and check the back-seat for unwanted passengers.
In a victory for the Obama administration, the Senate voted to end debate legislation that gives the president ”fast-track” powers to send trade bills to Congress for up-and-down votes without amendments. The Senate passed the measure with a 60 to 37 vote, but the final passage of the bill, H.R. 2146, requires a simple majority of 51 votes. Unusually, most Senate Republicans voted for the deal the White House wanted while only a baker’s dozen from the Democrats joined in, as they believe the Trans-Pacific Partnership may lead to U.S. job losses.
They’re not whistling Dixie. Republican Gov. Nikki Haley and presidential candidate Lindsey Graham have both called for the Confederate battle flag to come down after last week’s racist murders in Charleston. Wal-Mart, Amazon and eBay also plan to stop stocking anything emblazoned with the symbol, which is said to have inspired confessed shooter Dylann Roof. But at the South Carolina statehouse, the colors will keep flying until a two-thirds state legislative majority says otherwise — and the state’s House of Representatives has now agreed to debate its removal later this summer.
Morgues are overwhelmed in southern Pakistan, where hundreds have succumbed to heatstroke and dehydration as temperatures soared to 113 degrees Fahrenheit. Making matters worse are sporadic power outages — meaning those lucky enough to have air conditioning often can’t use it — and the fact that Muslims observing Ramadan are fasting during daylight hours. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has deployed the army to set up heat stroke centers, especially in Karachi, whose 9 million inhabitants have been hit the hardest, with thousands in serious condition. But relief may be coming, with temperatures forecast to drop to the low 90s on Thursday.
They may be giving an inch. The European Council says Athens has offered “its first real proposals in many weeks” for a deal to secure a bailout — an improvement over the recent stalemate, with Greece’s $1.8 billion IMF loan repayment due next week. While the two sides haven’t yet agreed, and the concessions came too late to yield anything during Monday’s summit, markets nonetheless leaped in anticipation of a eurozone-saving deal. Ministers plan to meet again Wednesday for yet another last-ditch effort at the brink of disaster.
Tap water never tasted so good. Pennsylvania-based Niagara Bottling is voluntarily recalling 14 of its brands — bearing healthy names such as Acadia and Nature’s Place — after discovering E. coli bacteria in one of its water sources. The affected labels, which also include store brands 7-Eleven and Shoprite, were produced between June 10 and June 18, but so far the company has received no reports of related illness. Infection from E. coli is generally curable, but carries a risk of deadly kidney disease for children and the elderly.
U.S. spied on French presidents. (Reuters)
Kurds wrest control of key ISIS base in Syria. (BBC)
U.K. police nab Rwandan spy chief in genocide probe. (Al Jazeera)
Iran nuclear negotiators agree on extending deadline. (WSJ) sub
Oscar-winning ‘Titanic’ composer dies in plane crash. (USA Today)
You wouldn’t want a machine to play doctor … but how about pharmacist? Advocacy group Women on Waves is taking advantage of Germany’s permissive laws to help women in Poland, where abortion is heavily restricted. The activists are sending a drone over the border this weekend armed with pregnancy-terminating pills for Polish women. Normally it’s abortion-providing clinicians who face legal risks, so with a drone doing the dirty work, it’s hoped that the illegal pills — and those taking them — will fly under the radar.
The Golden Boy says he’s sober, pain-free and in such great shape that he is thinking about coming out of retirement. In an interview with ESPN, the 42-year old former champion says he wakes up every morning thinking he is capable of returning to fight top opponents, even Floyd Mayweather or middleweight champ Gennady Golovkin. De La Hoya has not fought in nearly 7 years but says once he decides to come back, he’ll head straight to his Big Bear training site. The East Los Angeles native won 10 world titles throughout his 16-year career.
If you can’t beat ’em, hire ’em. The on-demand delivery start-up — aka Uber for groceries — has been classifying its personal purchasers as independent contractors. But after a recent California ruling that Uber drivers should be deemed employees entitled to benefits, Instacart is changing its tune. Saying it will improve supervision and training, CEO Apoorva Mehta says Boston and Chicago-based shoppers can now opt to become part-time workers in what could be the first domino to fall for start-ups that rely on the freelance economy.
Fashionistas are in a tight spot. A new study says the popular trousers that feel like they’re cutting off your circulation can do just that, with disastrous results. An Australian woman had her legs go numb from compartment syndrome, caused by lack of blood to one part of the body. Denims surgically removed, she was confined to a hospital bed for four days before she could walk again. If that scares the pants off you, don’t worry — Google’s fashion forecast says skinny jeans are being squeezed out anyway.
Get to know Tom Holland. The 19-year-old British actor emerged from a pack of wannabe web-slingers and landed the role of a lifetime. He’s the third actor to play Peter Parker in the series but the first to suit up for Marvel Studios. Holland will be joined by director Jon Watts, whose short film Cop Car drew acclaim at Sundance this year. In one of Hollywood’s worst kept secrets, the actor will soon head to the Netherlands to shoot a cameo in the upcoming Captain America: Civil War.
Have the fans stopped screaming? The well-reviewed cult favorite Hannibal, with its ghoulish window into the world of gory gourmand Hannibal Lecter, has been canceled, possibly because creator Bryan Fuller failed to obtain character rights to Dr. Lecter’s Silence of the Lambs foil, Clarice Starling. NBC’s third and final season ends Aug. 27, but Fuller hinted the “hungry cannibal” might “dine again” at another network, and speculation is rife over whether Netflix or Hulu might have this old friend for dinner.
They survived and advanced. Despite sketchy defense, the American women did enough to beat Colombia — a team they were expected to walk over — 2-0 in the Round of 16, moving on to face China in the quarterfinals. Alex Morgan scored shortly after she was tripped by Colombia’s goalie, whose resulting ejection left the South Americans a player short for the second half. But it took 52 minutes to get that all-important first goal — a late start Team USA can ill afford to repeat.