It’s Friday June 16, 2017



Russia's military said Friday it believes it killed Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in an airstrike outside of Raqqa, Syria, the Islamist extremist organization's de facto capital. The Kremlin says President Vladimir Putin chaired a meeting of his security council in Moscow to discuss the claim that al-Baghdadi was taken out along, along with a number of his top comanders in Russian airstrike back in May that reportedly hit a planned meeting of ISIS leaders involving about 30 ISIS commanders, and up to 300 fighters. Russia's Defense Ministry said it was checking information "through various channels" to confirm reports that al-Baghdadi was at the meeting and died ‌in the strikes. The ISIS leader is believed to have been hiding in the desert outside of Mosul, Iraq, until escaping after U.S.-backed Iraqi forces recaptured most of that city. The spokesman for the U.S.-led anti-Islamic State coalition - Army Col. Ryan Dillon said Friday morning that, "There have been several past claims of this kind that have been proven false and we have seen no definitive proof that this report is true either." However Dillon added, "the Coalition and the global community would welcome the news of al-Baghdadi's demise." Regardless of al-Baghdadi's personal status, Dillon said that the Islamic State group is "a losing organization" that would soon lose its control of its last two major urban strongholds - the Iraqi city of Mosul and the Syrian city of Raqqa.



Queen Elizabeth II along with her grandson Prince William, arrived in west London, meeting with victims of the deadly high-rise tower blaze near Kensington Palace. The monarch expressed her sympathies to families of victims of the blaze that ripped through the 24-story building, killing at least 30. The queen is also meeting with volunteers Friday. Prime Minister Theresa May is also speaking with survivors. May visited Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, which is treating eight people. Three are in critical condition. Firefighters searching the smoldering ruin in west London continue to recover bodies from the 24-story Grenfell Tower, and some officials fear the death toll could triple. Families searching for their loved ones have blanketed the area near the tower with posters searching for answers, and sorrow is quickly turning to anger over whether recent building renovations were properly done. Britain's Guardian newspaper on Friday is reporting that cladding used on the high-rise structure refurbishing project was made of the cheaper, more flammable material of two types of cladding offered by the manufacturer. Metropolitan Police commander Stuart Cundy said there is no evidence that tower fire was caused by arson.



Chinese authorities say a homemade bomb was used in an explosion at the front gate of a kindergarten that killed eight people, including the suspect. Police say the 22-year-old male suspect was identified primarily using security camera footage and DNA collected at the blast scene. They could not determine his motive. Investigators say they found materials for making a homemade bomb at the man's nearby residence. They say emblazoned on the walls of the residence were the Chinese characters for death and disaster. The police announcement says the man had left school because of an autonomic nervous system disorder, whose symptoms can include dizziness and problems with basic bodily functions. Sixty-five people were injured including eight listed in critical condition.



House Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana has undergone several operations and remains in critical condition nearly two days after he was shot in the hip by a gunman who opened fire on Republican lawmakers and staffers practicing for a charity baseball game. MedStar Washington Hospital Center said Scalise was improving but needed more surgery "related to his internal injuries and a broken bone in his leg" and will stay in the hospital for "some time." President Trump said Thursday that Scalise's recovery will be "much more difficult" than initially thought. The attack left Scalise, two Capitol Police officers, a congressional staffer, and a lobbyist injured. The alleged gunman, a vocal Trump critic named James Hodgkinson, was killed in a shootout with the officers, who were on Scalise's security detail. The FBI is investigating Hodgkinson's political activities and social media posts in an attempt to determine his motives and how he planned the attack. Police did say the shooter obtained his weapons through legal means.



That annual congressional baseball game went on as scheduled Thursday night at National's Park. Democrats won the game 11-2, and presented the trophy to Representative Scalise at his hospital bedside. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and House Speaker Paul Ryan said in a joint interview, that everyone was on "Team Scalise." President Donald Trump addressed both sides in a video message on the stadium's jumbo screen, saying, "By playing tonight, you are showing the world that we will not be intimidated by threats, acts of violence, or assaults on our democracy." A record of close to 25 thousand tickets were sold for the annual contest which raised about one million dollars for charity.



Authorities say the two escaped inmates, sought in the killings of two guards on a Georgia prison bus, were captured Thursday. It happened after a chase, and being held at gunpoint by a rural Tennessee homeowner whose vehicle they were trying to steal. Donnie Rowe and Ricky Dubose were apprehended in the rural community of Christiana, Tennessee, ending a multi-state manhunt that began earlier this week. The two men had been on the run since early Tuesday, when authorities say they killed Sgt. Christopher Monica and Sgt. Curtis Billue. Authorities say the two inmates overpowered and disarmed the guards on a bus early Tuesday as 33 inmates were being transported between prison facilities.



The Obama administration's end-of-term wind-down of the American military commitment in Afghanistan is being reversed. Confirmation of an escalating involvement in the drawn-out conflict comes in a revelation by a Trump administration official that the Pentagon will send almost 4,000 additional U.S. forces there. Washington has been striving to break the stalemate and the deployment will be the largest of American manpower under Donald Trump's young presidency.



An Indian court has convicted six people of involvement in an attack in Mumbai in 1993 in which powerful bombs packed in cars and scooters killed 257 people. The court found the six Muslims guilty on Friday on charges of criminal conspiracy, transporting weapons and murder, which are punishable by a maximum penalty of death. The court is to announce sentences next week. Prosecutors said the bombings were an act of revenge for the demolition of a 16th century mosque by Hindu nationalists in northern India in 1992. That triggered religious riots in parts of India, leaving more than 800 dead, mostly Muslims. The six are the second group to be tried in the blasts. Eleven others were sentenced to death In 2007.



President Trump is ready to reveal a change in Cuba policy designed to sever the flow of U.S. cash to the country's military and security services. That's according to senior White House officials who have briefed reporters on the pending announcement. The partial reversal of President Barack Obama's opening to Havana midway through his second term will maintain diplomatic relations and allow U.S. airlines and cruise ships to continue servicing the island.



15 thousand residents in the northern German city of Hannover had to evacuate their homes after a 550 pound World War II-era bomb was found during construction work. The DPA news agency says the bomb was found during digging Thursday afternoon but disposal experts couldn't begin work until the early morning hours Friday as some recalcitrant residents refused to evacuate their homes. A helicopter deployed to make sure there were no people in the area had to break off its search after someone shined a laser pointer into the pilot's eyes. Once begun at 3:13 a.m., it took disposal experts a half hour to secure and remove the bomb. More than 70 years after the end of World War 2, such finds are still common in Germany.



Italians and tourists alike are struggling to get around as a nationwide transport strike has forced the cancellation of Alitalia flights, the closure of subway stations and the suspension of bus service. Huge lines formed at taxi stands in Rome and Milan, where very warm daytime temperatures added to the discomfort for frustrated commuters and tourists. Italian unions often stage strikes on Fridays in summer, fueling outrage and contributing to even worse traffic jams than usual. Italy's major unions opposed the strike by a handful of smaller ones, saying it was particularly damaging for Alitalia, which is currently searching for a buyer. Ex-Premier Matteo Renzi took to Facebook to vent Friday, saying unions have a right to strike but that cities have a right to not be paralyzed.



This Father's Day, Betsy Roddy will write two cards: one to her dad, and the other to her late great-grandmother, Sonora Smart Dodd. She is the Mother of Father's Day, the woman who launched the celebration in 1910 in her hometown of Spokane, Washington. Roddy, who is Dodd's last direct descendant, says inspiration came as her great-grandmother sat through a Mother's Day sermon in 1909, wondering why there was no Father's Day. Dodd's own father had raised six children on his own after his wife died. His daughter decided he and other fathers deserved credit for things like that. After the first celebration, Dodd lobbied for decades to make Father's Day an official federal holiday. President Richard Nixon did so in 1972. Now, Dodd's great-granddaughter is keeping the day's history alive.