Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Clara Spera
Friday, June 6, 2014, 8:51 AM

Today marks the 70th anniversary of D-Day. The Allied invasion of Normandy remains the largest seaborne military invasion in history, and its importance for the Second World War was monumental. To commemorate the occasion, several world leaders, including President Obama, will gather in Normandy. The BBC has the details of the day’s events. The New York Times has a moving piece in which four American veterans recall their experiences of the day. The Washington Post has gathered incredible photos from the invasion.

The Post has a story on the strictures imposed on five Taliban leaders released to Qatar in exchange for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. Though the Obama administration has not released the official terms, people in the know told the Post that the swap came with strict conditions, including a year-long travel ban. The main goal is to keep the five from fighting against American troops while they are still deployed in Afghanistan.

We're also seeing more coverage of the circumstances of Bergdahl’s disappearance and his time while in the Taliban's clutches. The Times reports that Bergdahl may have had a “history of leaving” his assigned post. The Hill reports that the White House, in a bid to knock down contrary buzz, insists that there is “no evidence” of Bergdahl cozying up to the Taliban during captivity.

In Pakistan, an already shaky agreement between the government and the Pakistani Taliban has been officially broken. Al Jazeera sends us the news: a significant faction of the Pakistani Taliban has revoked the pact and plans to take up arms against government forces in the North Waziristan region.

On to surveillance matters.  David Ignatius of the Post has penned an opinion piece, discussing Director of National Intelligence James Clapper’s recent claims that Edward Snowden took fewer materials from the government than originally feared. Ignatius suspects that there will ultimately be a legal resolution to the entire debacle---the only mechanism with which we might “establish [all] the facts.”

NPR sat down with the new executive editor of the Times, Dean Baquet. Among many other things, Baquet talks about losing the Snowden story. The former NSA contractor was wary of the Times ever since it decided to delay the publishing of another NSA surveillance story, back in 2004. NPR has all the details, and gets down to Baquet's bottom line on the leaks: "I would love to be able to tell you [the Post and Guardian coverage] wasn't good. But it was great. It was important, groundbreaking work. I wish we had it."

Politico covers Senate discussion of the USA Freedom Act, a surveillance bill recently passed by the House. At a hearing yesterday, members of the Senate Intelligence Committee didn’t seem particularly enthused about the bill, with some, like Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) arguing that the legislation doesn’t go far enough in its proposed reforms; and others, like Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) contending that it is too aggressive in that regard.

In protest over Russia’s actions in Ukraine, the leaders of the G8 summit have decided to meet as the G7---that is, without Russian President Vladimir Putin. Reuters reports that Putin is not particularly impressed with this move.  He barely addressed the controversy when asked by reporters, apart from wishing those involved in the G7 proceedings “bon appétit.”  (Putin used an equivalent phrase in Russian.)

Russia does have praise, however, for Syria’s recent presidential election. Yesterday, Ritika and Tara pointed out the several issues with the election; apparently Russia is blind to such criticism. Reuters explains that Russian officials have praised the election as free and fair, though noting that “naturally” it may not have been “100 percent democratic”.

The G7 leaders at the meeting in Brussels have threatened Russia with more sanctions over its action in Ukraine. Al Jazeera has the story, but explains that the likelihood of the sanctions actually being pushed through is relatively unlikely.

On the topic of sanctions, Reuters reveals that there is growing support among Iranians for a nuclear compromise with the West, as they are tired of living under tough sanctions imposed as a result of the country’s nuclear program. Many hope that President Rouhani’s administration will strike a deal at the upcoming June 16 nuclear talks in Geneva.

Samarra is the latest city to fall victim to the renewed wave of violence in Iraq. Al Jazeera reports that at least 18 people have been killed in the city since armed men took control of several districts around the city. The Iraqi military believes the men responsible for inciting the violence are members Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant group (ISIL)---but that claim has yet to be confirmed.

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel is in Romania, where he has announced a plan for an increased American presence in the Black Sea. Reuters has the details.

President Obama has announced that Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., commander of American and allied forces in Afghanistan, is the White House's pick to be the new leader of the Marine Corps.  The Times has more.

Apropos of military policy, here's something you might not have known: the sale of tobacco is widespread on military bases, and even on Navy ships. 24% of the American military smoke, and tobacco use costs the Defense Department an estimated $1.6 billion in annual medical costs and lost work time.  All that may soon change for the Navy, at least. The AP explains that Navy Secretary Ray Mabus is considering banning tobacco from all ships and bases, including Marine bases.

The chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Court has pledged to renew the court’s focus on sex crimes. The Times reports that Fatou Bensouda has grown “alarmed” at the evidence of the abuse of women during wartime. She hopes the Court will take victims of sexual assault into account when ordering reparations after successful prosecutions.

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