TIME Iraq

ISIS Suicide Attacks Against Iraqi Army Kill 17

isis-attack-sandstorm-ramadi-iraq
AP In this May 14, 2015 file photo, security forces defend their headquarters against attacks by Islamic State extremists during a sandstorm in the eastern part of Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province, Iraq.

The attacks came after the Iraqi government announced an operation against ISIS

(BAGHDAD)—Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) extremists unleashed a wave of suicide attacks targeting the Iraqi army in western Anbar province, killing at least 17 troops in a major blow to government efforts to dislodge the militants from the sprawling Sunni heartland, an Iraqi military spokesman said Wednesday.

The attacks came just hours after the Iraqi government on Tuesday announced the start of a wide-scale operation to recapture areas under the control of the ISIS group in Anbar.

Brig. Gen Saad Maan Ibrahim, the spokesman for the Joint Military Command, told The Associated Press the attacks took place outside the Islamic State-held city of Fallujah late Tuesday night.

The militants struck near a water control station and a lock system on a canal between Lake Tharthar and the Euphrates River where army forces have been deployed for the Anbar offensive, he said.

Ibrahim added that the Islamic State extremists used a sandstorm that engulfed most of Iraq on Tuesday night to launch the deadly wave of bombings. He said it was not clear how many suicide attackers were involved in the bombings but they hit the military from multiple directions.

Last month, the water station near Fallujah fell into the hands of Islamic State militants — following attacks that also included multiple suicide bombings and that killed a general commanding the 1st Division and a dozen other officers and soldiers, he said.

Iraqi government forces recaptured the station a few days later. Fallujah lies to the east of the Anbar provincial capital of Ramadi, which was captured by the Islamic State militants nearly two weeks ago in what was a major, humiliating defeat for Iraqi troops at the hands of the extremists.

The Iraqi operation to retake Anbar, which is said to be backed by Shiite militias and Sunni pro-government fighters, is deemed critical in regaining momentum in the fight against the Islamic State.

The extremists captured Ramadi in Iraq and the Syrian ancient town of Palmyra earlier this month, showing that it is able to advance in both countries despite months of U.S.-led airstrikes. Capt. Andrew Caulk, a U.S. Air Force spokesman in Qatar, told the AP it will continue to provide air support “to government-controlled Iraqi forces” throughout the country, including near Ramadi, where it has been carrying out airstrikes for several months.

Syria’s foreign minister said Wednesday that his government is not pinning any hopes on the U.S.-led coalition striking at Islamic State group militants in his country.

At a news conference in Damascus, Walid al-Moallem said the coalition was active in preventing the Kurdish town of Kobani from falling to the extremists last year but that this support seems to have “evaporated” after that.

The United States did nothing to prevent the ancient town of Palmyra in Syria or the province of Anbar in Iraq from falling into their hands, he said.

“We’re not pinning any hopes on that alliance and anyone who does is living an illusion,” al-Moallem added.

Al-Moallem also said Iraq and Syria were fighting the same battle but added that security coordination between their two armies “has not reached the desired levels.”

Also Wednesday, Syrian activists said the Islamic State group released two elderly Christian women who had been held along with dozens of others since February in northeastern Syria.

At the time, they kidnapped more than 220 Assyrian Christians after overrunning several farming communities on the southern bank of the Khabur River in Hassakeh province.

The two women, who are 70 and 75 years old, were released on Tuesday and have now reached the northwestern city of Hassakeh, said Osama Edwards, director of the Assyrian Network for Human Rights.

Another activist group, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said the two were likely released because of their poor health. Some of the captives had been released previously.

Edwards said the Islamic State group is still holding 210 Assyrian Christians and is demanding $100,000 for each hostage.

___

Associated Press writer Bassem Mroue in Beirut and Adam Schreck in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, contributed to this report.

TIME weather

Deadly Storms in Texas Test Government’s Emergency Response

At least 17 people were killed in the Memorial Day weekend storms in Texas and Oklahoma

(WIMBERLEY, Texas)—Deadly severe weather over the long holiday weekend tested government alert and evacuation procedures, as officials scrambled to deal with storms and historic flooding that left more than a dozen people dead and a similar number missing.

Crews will resume searches Wednesday for the 11 people who have now been missing for three days in the small tourist town of Wimberley, where the usually calm Blanco River swelled to an ocean-like squall that crested three times above flood stage. In Houston, where nearly a foot of rain submerged roads and stranded hundreds of motorists, Mayor Annise Parker said two people who capsized in a boat that was helping with rescue efforts Tuesday have not been found.

At least 17 people were killed in the Memorial Day weekend storms in Texas and Oklahoma.

Authorities defended their warnings to residents ahead of the weather, which included alerts via phone and in person, but acknowledged challenges with reaching tourists and said a messaging system in Houston is still waiting for improvements.

“Nobody was saying, ‘Get out; get out; get out,'” said Brenda Morton of Wimberley. “We’re pretty trained, so we were calculating. We knew the flood plain. People who were visiting or had summer homes, you have company from out of town, you don’t know. You don’t know when that instant is.”

Morton lives three houses down from a two-story vacation home that authorities say was swept off its 10-foot pylons by a wall of water early Sunday morning with eight people inside, which included three children, ages 6 and 4. The house slammed into a bridge after being carried downstream on the Blanco.

Authorities in surrounding Hays County said warnings included multiple cellphone alerts and calls to landlines. Some received in-person warnings to evacuate, but officials could not say whether those in the washed-away home talked to police.

“Law enforcement made notification along that street. Whether they made contact with somebody at their residence, I can’t say,” Hays County Emergency Management Coordinator Kharley Smith said.

Wimberley, a popular bed-and-breakfast getaway near Austin and surrounded by wine vineyards, thrives on weekends like Memorial Day. Some of the missing had homes in the area, but officials have acknowledged that their electronic alerts may not reach tourists.

“Most definitely, most definitely that will certainly be part of our discussion,” Hays County Commissioner Will Conley said.

In Houston, warnings from the National Weather Service buzzed on mobile phones, but city officials say they haven’t yet installed a system that would allow them to alert residents with more targeted warnings. The city was still working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to get that framework running, said Michael Walter, spokesman for Houston’s Office of Emergency Management.

Floodwaters in Houston affected virtually every part of the city and paralyzed some areas. Firefighters carried out more than 500 water rescues, most involving stranded motorists. At least 2,500 vehicles were abandoned by drivers seeking higher ground, officials said.

“A number that we don’t know, and we will never know, is the number of lives that have been saved by the effective response of first responders,” Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said in Houston.

Small cars weaved between massive 18-wheelers as other drivers stared at them in disbelief. With no end to the backup in sight, some drivers got off the freeway, only to be held up again by water covering nearby access roads. Some motorists were stuck on I-45 all night, sleeping in their cars until the backup was cleared shortly after sunrise.

NBA fans at the Toyota Center, where the Rockets hosted a Western Conference finals game against Golden State on Monday, were asked with about two minutes left in the game not to leave the arena because of the severe weather.

The game ended before 11 p.m., but about 400 people remained in their seats at 1:30 a.m., choosing to stay in the building rather than brave the flooded roads that awaited them outside.

A spokeswoman for the flood district of Harris County, which includes Houston, said up to 700 homes sustained some level of damage.

Abbott said 46 counties in Texas have state disaster declarations. President Barack Obama has said he expressed condolences to Abbott and anticipates significant requests for federal assistance.

Crews were also searching for victims and assessing damage just across the Texas-Mexico border in Ciudad Acuna, where a tornado killed 13 people Monday.

The deaths in Texas included a man whose body was pulled from the Blanco; a 14-year-old who was found with his dog in a storm drain; a high school senior who died Saturday after her car was caught in high water; and a man whose mobile home was destroyed by a reported tornado.

The drenching rain threatened to linger. National Weather Service forecasts called for a 20 to 40 percent chance of thunderstorms through the rest of the week in Houston, and more storms were also in store for Central Texas.

TIME

LeBron, Cavaliers Earn NBA Finals Spot by Sweeping Hawks

Hawks Cavaliers Basketball
Curtis Compton—AP Cleveland Cavaliers LeBron James and Atlanta Hawks DeMarre Carroll battle for a loose ball during Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals in Cleveland on May 26, 2015

The Cavaliers are in the NBA Finals

(CLEVELAND) — The championship LeBron James craves more than any other, the one he came back home to get, is within reach.

The Cavaliers are in the NBA Finals.

James scored 23 points, Kyrie Irving provided a boost after missing two games and Cleveland reserved a spot in the finals with a 118-88 victory over the Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday night to win the Eastern Conference title.

By sweeping the top-seeded Hawks, the Cavs earned their second trip to the finals, where they will face either Golden State or Houston starting June 4.

It will be the fifth straight visit to the league’s showcase event for the inimitable James, who returned to Cleveland after four years in Miami to try and end this city’s championship drought dating to 1964. The Cavs are four wins from doing it, and if they can, James will have a title that would put him in a class by himself. Other players have won more championships, but none has ever done it for his ring-starved home region.

“We have everything it takes to win,” James said after the Cavs were presented with the conference trophy.

However, they’ve got their eyes on another one.

“Cleveland,” owner Dan Gibert said, addressing the crowd. “We’re not settling for this.”

Jeff Teague scored 17 and Paul Millsap 16 for Atlanta, which won a team-record 60 games during the regular season and made the conference finals for the first time since 1970. But the Hawks were no match for the Cavaliers and had no answer for James, who nearly averaged a triple-double in the four games.

J.R. Smith added 18 points and Tristan Thompson had 16 points and 11 rebounds for the Cavs, who were handed new caps and T-shirts following the win and were joined by family members on the floor to celebrate.

But unlike 2007, when James ran into center Zydrunas Ilgauskas’ arms at the final horn, he was very business-like after the clock hit zero.

Standing at center court, he turned to Smith and reminded him there was work still undone.

“Four more,” James said.

It was a tough way for the Hawks to end a remarkable season. They survived a tumultuous offseason, and their young roster gelled in January when they became the first franchise to go 17-0 in a calendar month. They went on to win 19 straight, improved their record by 22 wins over last season and beat Brooklyn and Washington to make their first conference finals since 1994.

But an injury to starting forward Thabo Sefolosha in April was followed by DeMarre Carroll injuring his knee in the series opener, before Kyle Korver’s season ended in Game 2 with an ankle injury.

Those all hurt, but it was James who inflicted the most pain.

James carried the Cavs to their first finals appearance eight years ago, when they were swept by San Antonio. Cleveland was a heavy underdog then and it was assumed the Cavs would get back again. But James left in 2010 to join the Heat, a move that dropped the Cavaliers from relevance and into the draft lottery four straight years. But those days are over — Cleveland and King James reign supreme in the East.

The Cavs got through the last two rounds without forward Kevin Love, who sustained a season-ending shoulder injury. His arrival last summer, joining James and Irving to form a Big 3, made Cleveland the team to beat in the East.

It didn’t go exactly as planned under first-year coach David Blatt, who left his family in Israel to take the Cavs’ job.

“We’re in Cleveland,” Blatt cracked. “Nothing is easy here.”

The Cavs lost center Anderson Varejao to a season-ending Achilles injury in December and they were 19-20 before trading for Smith, Iman Shumpert and Timofey Mozgov, a trio that transformed Cleveland.

Irving, who missed Cleveland’s previous two games with tendinitis in his left knee, scored 16 and the All-Star point guard looked better than he has in weeks.

Unlike Game 3, when he missed his first 10 shots, James started much better and scored 15 in the first half as the Cavs opened a 17-point halftime lead. They pushed it to 20 early in the third, withstood a brief rally by the Hawks and spent the fourth quarter playing their reserves and getting ready for a party and some time off before the finals.

This was Cleveland’s night from the start.

Following pregame introductions, James slapped hands with members of Gilbert’s family and then with his boss. The two mended their broken relationship last summer, paving the way for James to re-sign with Cavs and try to deliver the title he couldn’t during his first stint.

James had a bounce in his step and it wasn’t long before he delivered one of his patented windmill dunks, prompting the Hawks to call a timeout while James ran the length of the baseline screaming at Cleveland fans to “Get up!”

Moments later, Irving showed he could get up after being knocked down.

He drove to the basket for a layup and was fouled hard. Irving, though, quickly popped to his feet and James, who was on the bench at the time, walked several feet onto the floor to salute his teammate.

The Cavs know they’ll need a healthy Irving to take the next step — the one to the top.

HARD TO WATCH

Like anyone who saw it on TV, James said watching the nasty fall taken by Golden State’s Stephen Curry during Game 4 in Houston was difficult. “It was pretty horrific,” he said. “I thought he lucked out by getting his hand out of there. Because if he would have landed with all his weight onto his arm, he could have broke his wrist or arm. And, I’ve been there before.” James broke his wrist on a similar tumble in high school. “I know exactly what he was going through at that point and time,” he said.

KORVER SURGERY

Korver will undergo surgery Wednesday on the badly damaged ankle he injured when Matthew Dellavedova rolled up on him while diving for a loose ball in Game 2.

TIP-INS

Hawks: Among Atlanta’s other notable accomplishments this season: a 12-game road winning streak, a 12-game run against Western Conference teams, a franchise record 13-game streak against Eastern teams.

Cavaliers: James is now 8-0 in the playoffs against Atlanta. … James isn’t the only Cleveland player heading to his fifth straight finals. So is swingman James Jones, who played four seasons with James in Miami. … Cleveland is 26-2 at home since Jan. 19.

TIME Israel

Israeli Launches Airstrikes After Gaza Militants Fire Rocket

Hamas security officers, front, stand guard as Egyptian soldiers are posted in the Egyptian side of the Rafah border crossing, as seen from Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, May 26, 2015
Adel Hana—AP Hamas security officers, front, stand guard as Egyptian soldiers are posted in the Egyptian side of the Rafah border crossing, as seen from Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on May 26, 2015

There were no reports of casualties

(GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip) — Israeli fighter jets carried out airstrikes in the Gaza Strip early Wednesday just hours after a rocket was fired at southern Israel, an Israeli military spokesman said.

Israeli Defense Forces spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner said the airstrikes targeted “four terror infrastructures” in the southern Gaza Strip.

The airstrikes were in response to an attack Tuesday night in which a rocket was launched at Israeli territory from the Gaza Strip, Lerner said. The rocket hit an open area in the Lakhish regional council, and no injuries were reported, he said. Sirens wailed in several southern Israeli communities at the time of the attack.

Earlier, a Hamas official said that unknown militants in the Gaza Strip fired at least one rocket at Israel. The official spoke on condition of anonymity as he wasn’t authorized to brief journalists about the fired rocket.

No Palestinian group has claimed responsibility for Tuesday’s rocket attack.

Early Wednesday, witnesses reported hearing explosions from the Israeli airstrikes in different parts of the northern and southern Gaza Strip.

Palestinian security sources said the Israeli airstrikes targeted militant training sites and also hit open spaces. The sites belong to Hamas, the Islamic militant group that rules Gaza, and the smaller Islamic Jihad group.

There were no reports of casualties.

The airstrikes are the first since a ceasefire between Israel and Gaza militants took effect following the end of a 50-day war last summer. However, Palestinians say Israel forces have regularly fired at farmers near the border fence and at fishermen off the Gaza coast. The shootings have killed a Palestinian fisherman and a farmer.

Hamas has fired thousands of rockets at Israel over the years. But rocket fire has mostly stopped since the end of last summer’s war between Gaza militants and Israel.

Other militant groups have fired rockets since then, but Israel holds Hamas responsible for all attacks coming out of Gaza.

Lerner said Wednesday’s airstrikes “are a direct response to Hamas and the aggression against Israeli civilians originating from the Gaza Strip.”

“The reality that Hamas’ territory is used as a staging ground to attack Israel is unacceptable and intolerable and will bear consequences,” he said. “Israelis cannot be expected to live in the perpetual fear of rocket attacks; the IDF will continue to operate in order to seek out those that wish to undermine Israeli sovereignty with acts of terrorism.”

TIME Afghanistan

4 Militants Die in Attack in Upscale Area of Afghan Capital

Afghan policeman keeps watch near the site of an attack in Kabul,Afghanistan
Mohammad Ismail—Reuters An Afghan policeman keeps watch near the site of an attack in Kabul on May 27, 2015

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack in tweets on a recognized account

(KABUL, AFGHANISTAN) — An all-night siege in an upscale neighborhood of Afghanistan’s capital ended in the early hours of Wednesday morning with the deaths of four heavily armed attackers, though no civilians or security personnel were injured or killed, an Afghan official said.

Deputy Interior Minister Mohammad Ayub Salangi said that weapons had been seized, including a rocket-propelled grenade launcher, three automatic rifles and a hand grenade.

Using his official Twitter account, Salangi said there were “no civilian or military casualties.”

The siege ended after 5 a.m. in a sustained barrage of automatic weapons fire and a series of huge explosions that resounded across the Wazir Akbar Khan district of downtown Kabul, home to many embassies and foreign firms.

Salangi had said earlier that the target of the attack appeared to be a guesthouse, but he gave no further details.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack in tweets on a recognized Twitter account. They referred to the target as “belonging to the occupiers,” reiterating the insurgents’ message that foreign installations are specific targets in the Afghan capital.

The attack came amid intensified fighting across many parts of Afghanistan since the insurgents launched their annual warm weather offensive a month ago. A Taliban attack on a guesthouse in another part of the capital earlier this month left 14 people dead, including nine foreigners.

The United Nations already has documented a record high number of civilian casualties — 974 killed and 1,963 injured — in the first four months of 2015, a 16 percent increase over the same period last year.

The siege began late Tuesday, with heavy explosions accompanying sporadic automatic weapon fire, and sounded to be focused on the Rabbani Guesthouse, which is favored by foreigners as the area is in the heart of the diplomatic district and close to the airport.

Police and a paramilitary Crisis Response Unit surrounded the area, blocked roads, took up positions on rooftops and parked armored personnel vehicles in the streets around the guesthouse. Police officers smashed lights throughout the neighborhood to cover their movements.

For about five hours, gunfire and explosions were sporadic, before a lull lasting more than an hour ended with a dawn volley of sustained gunfire and huge explosions that sent clouds of black smoke into the sky.

The guesthouse, once known as the Heetal Hotel, was damaged in a December 2009 suicide car bomb attack near the home of former Afghan Vice President Ahmad Zia Massoud — brother of legendary anti-Taliban fighter Ahmad Shah Massoud, who was killed in an al-Qaida suicide bombing two days before the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. That 2009 attack killed eight people and wounded nearly 40.

The hotel is owned by the Rabbani family, who include the late Burhanuddin Rabbani who served as president of Afghanistan from 1992 until 1996 and was assassinated in Kabul in 2011, and current Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani.

Afghan security forces have been struggling to fend off Taliban attacks since U.S. and NATO forces concluded their combat mission at the end of last year and the mission morphed into one of training and support. The new insurgent strategy appears to be aimed at forcing the government to spread its forces thinly across many regions of the country, to focus on security rather than developing the economy and creating jobs as it has promised to do.

Earlier on Tuesday, in Uruzgan province, officials said that a district has been under attack by militants for the past two weeks, with district chief Abdul Karim Karimi saying that since the fighting began 12 soldiers had been killed and dozens wounded.

On Monday, militants killed at least 26 police officers and soldiers in ambushes in southern Helmand province.

TIME Libya

Gunmen Try to Assassinate Libya’s Recognized Prime Minister

Libyan Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni speaking to the media at the Carthage Palace, in Tunis, Tunisia, on March 31, 2015.
Mohamed Messara—EPA Libyan Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni speaking to the media at the Carthage Palace, in Tunis, Tunisia, on March 31, 2015.

Abdullah al-Thinni's motorcade was attacked and a guard was lightly wounded

(BENGHAZI, Libya) — Gunmen tried to assassinate Libya’s internationally recognized prime minister on his way to the airport in the eastern city of Tobruk on Tuesday, a spokesman for his government said.

Arish Said, head of the government’s media department, said that Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni’s motorcade was attacked and one of his guards was lightly wounded but that there were no fatalities.

“They managed to escape,” Said said.

Prior to the attack, he said armed men who had been protesting outside a session of the Tobruk government’s House of Representatives tried to storm the building, firing shots into the air and demanding al-Thinni be removed from office.

They were “threatening to kill the prime minister and force the House to sack him,” Said said. He identified the men as being funded by “corrupted political financiers” linked to powerful Tobruk tribal leaders, without elaborating.

The session was postponed until next week before the attempted assassination.

Nearly four years after the ouster of longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi, Libya is consumed by chaos. The country split is between an elected parliament and weak government, and a rival government and parliament in Tripoli set up by the Islamist-linked militias that took control the capital, forcing the government to relocate to the far eastern cities of Tobruk and Bayda.

The turmoil has enabled the rise of an active Islamic State branch, which now controls at least two cities along the country’s coastline.

Before the assassination attempt, a leader from Tobruk’s dominant Obiedi tribe, Faraj Abu Alkhatabia, threatened al-Thanni on private broadcaster Libya Awalan.

“This prime minister must resign, if he doesn’t I will smash his head,” he said, adding that “either he leaves or we won’t let the house of representatives stay in Tobruk.”

A national security adviser to the Tobruk government, who declined to comment for fear of retribution, linked the threat to powerful Tobruk businessman and oil magnate Hassan Tatanaki, a member of the same tribe who owns the Libya Awalan television station.

“This morning the prime minster spoke with the head of the house of representatives regarding the pressure applied by Libyan tycoon Tatanaki who wishes to be appointed foreign minister.” Tatanaki’s office could not be immediately reached for comment.

Earlier Tuesday, Human Rights Watch said civilians, including foreign nationals, are trapped in several neighborhoods in Libya’s embattled eastern city of Benghazi, urging fighters there to let them depart without conditions.

In a statement, the U.S.-based group says militias and army units have surrounded the downtown areas, where several hundred people are reportedly trapped and not allowed to leave. Some of those trapped were Syrians, Palestinians, and Asian and African nationals.

Middle East and North Africa director Sarah Leah Whitson said that all forces involved must take all feasible precautions to minimize harm to civilians and civilian property, and that the Libyan army and militias must allow civilians safe passage and facilitate access to badly needed aid.

___

Associated Press writer Brian Rohan contributed to this report from Cairo.

TIME Crime

Thieves Stole 100,000 People’s Tax Info From IRS

The stolen information includes tax returns

(WASHINGTON)—The IRS says thieves used an online service provided by the agency to gain access to information from more than 100,000 taxpayers.

The information included tax returns and other tax information on file with the IRS.

In a statement Tuesday, the IRS said the thieves accessed a system called “Get Transcript.” In order to access the information, the thieves cleared a security screen that required knowledge about the taxpayer, including the Social Security number, date of birth, tax filing status and street address.

The IRS said thieves targeted the system from February to mid-May. The service has been temporarily shut down.

Tax returns can include a host of personal information that can help someone steal an identity, including Social Security numbers and birthdates of dependents and spouses.

TIME Immigration

Federal Appeals Court Refuses to Lift Ban on President Obama’s Immigration Plan

US Immigration Relief
Mary Altaffer—AP Demonstrators chant slogans during a National Day of Action to #Fight4DAPA rally on May 19, 2015, in New York.

The plan could shield as many as 5 million immigrants illegally living in the U.S. from deportation

(NEW ORLEANS) — A federal appeals court refused Tuesday to lift a temporary hold on President Barack Obama’s executive action that could shield as many as 5 million immigrants illegally living in the U.S. from deportation.

The U.S. Justice Department had asked the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to reverse a Texas judge who agreed to temporarily block the president’s plan in February, after 26 states filed a lawsuit alleging Obama’s action was unconstitutional. But two out of three judges on a court panel voted to deny the government’s request.

It wasn’t immediately clear if the government would appeal, either to the full appeals court in New Orleans or to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The states suing to block the plan, led by Texas, argue that Obama acted outside his authority and that the changes would force them to invest more in law enforcement, health care and education. But the White House has said the president acted within his powers to fix a “broken immigration system.”

U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen sided with the states and, from his court in Brownsville, Texas, issued a temporary injunction on Feb. 16 to block the plan from taking effect while the lawsuit works its way through the courts.

Justice Department lawyers sought a stay while they appealed the injunction. They argued that keeping the temporary hold interfered with the Homeland Security Department’s ability to protect the U.S. and secure the nation’s borders. They also said immigration policy is a domain of the federal government, not the states.

But, in Tuesday’s ruling, 5th Circuit judges Jerry Smith and Jennifer Walker Elrod denied the stay, saying in an opinion written by Smith, that the federal government lawyers are unlikely to succeed on the merits of that appeal. Judge Stephen Higginson dissented.

Obama announced the executive action in November, saying lack of action by Congress forced him to make sweeping changes to immigration rules on his own. Republicans said Obama overstepped his presidential authority.

The first of Obama’s orders — to expand a program that protects young immigrants from deportation if they were brought to the U.S. illegally as children — was set to take effect Feb. 18. The other major part, extending deportation protections to parents of U.S. citizens and permanent residents who have been in the country for some years, had been scheduled to begin May 19.

Hanen issued his injunction believing that neither action had taken effect. But the Justice Department later told Hanen that more than 108,000 people had already received three-year reprieves from deportation as well as work permits. Hanen said the federal government had been “misleading,” but he declined to sanction the government’s attorneys.

The Justice Department has also asked the 5th Circuit to reverse Hanen’s overall ruling that sided with the states. A decision on that appeal, which will be argued before the court in July, could take months.

Along with Texas, the states seeking to block Obama’s action are Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

TIME Iran

Espionage Trial of Washington Post Reporter Underway in Iran

United States Iran
Zoeann Murphy—The Washington Post/AP Jason Rezaian, a Washington Post reporter, is seen at the newspaper in Washington on Nov. 6, 2013.

Jason Rezaian is being tried on allegations of "espionage for the hostile government of the United States"

(TEHRAN, Iran) — An Iranian security court on Tuesday began the closed-door espionage trial of an Iranian-American reporter for The Washington Post who has been detained for more than 10 months.

Jason Rezaian, the Post’s 39-year-old bureau chief in Tehran, is being tried in a Revolutionary Court on allegations of “espionage for the hostile government of the United States” and propaganda against the Islamic Republic, Iran’s official IRNA news agency reported.

The IRNA report did not elaborate. Rezaian’s brother, Ali, later told The Associated Press in Washington that the proceeding largely involved him hearing the charges. Rezaian’s lawyer, Leila Ahsan, could not be reached for comment.

The Post has said Rezaian faces up to 10 to 20 years in prison.

Rezaian, his wife Yeganeh Salehi and two photojournalists were detained on July 22 in Tehran. All were later released except Rezaian, who was born and spent most of his life in the United States, and who holds both American and Iranian citizenship. Iran does not recognize other nationalities for its citizens.

Salehi, wearing a traditional black Islamic veil, refused to talk to waiting reporters as she left the courthouse after the hearing Tuesday. She looked upset and covered her face with the scarf as she departed in a yellow taxi, sitting in the back seat next to an older woman. The Post later reported Rezaian’s mother, Mary Rezaian, had accompanied her to court, but also could not attend.

Last week, Rezaian’s lawyer said Salehi, who is a reporter for The National newspaper in the United Arab Emirates capital of Abu Dhabi, and a freelance photographer who worked for foreign media, also will stand trial. The photographer’s name has not been made public.

The Post and U.S. diplomats have criticized Rezaian’s detention and the handling of the case. Salehi has been barred from traveling abroad, the Post said, adding that its requests for a visa for a senior editor to travel to Iran went unanswered.

“There is no justice in this system, not an ounce of it, and yet the fate of a good, innocent man hangs in the balance,” Washington Post Executive Editor Martin Baron said in a statement. “Iran is making a statement about its values in its disgraceful treatment of our colleague, and it can only horrify the world community.”

Ali Rezaian said he believed Iranian authorities had two main documents they were using at his brother’s trial.

One was a form letter Rezaian submitted online in 2008 after the election of U.S. President Barack Obama, offering to help “break down barriers” between America and Iran, his brother said. The other was an American visa application he filled out for his wife that asked for it to be expedited at the time because of a looming Iranian election, noting “sometimes it’s not the best place to be as a journalist,” his brother said.

“There are other specific pieces of evidence that we believe that they are going to use to support the charges, but what I can say is that those are two of the most significant ones,” Ali Rezaian said. “So I think you can see what kinds of evidence they are basing their entire case on, and that’s taken 310 days of my brother’s life.”

U.S. officials repeatedly have pressed Iran to release Rezaian and other jailed Americans, including during talks on the sidelines of negotiations over Tehran’s contested nuclear program. Iran and world powers hope to reach a comprehensive agreement on the program by the end of June to ease economic sanctions on Tehran in exchange for it limiting its uranium enrichment.

The judge assigned to hear Rezaian’s case, Abolghassem Salavati, is known for his tough sentencing. He has presided over numerous politically sensitive cases, including those of protesters arrested in connection with demonstrations that followed the 2009 presidential elections.

IRNA said Rezaian’s hearing ended after a few hours, and that Salavati would decide on the date of the next one, without providing further details.

His brother said Rezaian just wants to prove his innocence.

“He’d never do anything malicious to hurt Iran, or the United States,” Ali Rezaian said. “And we want to be as loud and clear to everybody in the world.”

___

Associated Press writers Tracy Brown in Washington and Adam Schreck in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, contributed to this report.

TIME Connecticut

Yale Student Jumps to Death After Stabbing Fellow Student

The stabbing victim was in stable condition

(NEW HAVEN, Conn.)—Police say a Yale University student jumped to his death from the ninth floor of an off-campus apartment building moments after stabbing a fellow student.

New Haven police say it happened around 5:30 a.m. Tuesday at an apartment complex across the street from the Ivy League campus.

Officials say the suspect fell six stories onto a third-floor terrace. His name is being withheld pending notification of his family.

Police say 21-year-old stabbing victim Alexander Michaud is in stable condition at Yale-New Haven Hospital. Officials say the men were acquaintances and Yale students.

A Yale spokesman had no immediate comment.

Authorities haven’t released details of what happened before the stabbing and jump.

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