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June 25 2016 6:00 PM

At Least 15 Killed in Attack on Hotel in Somalia

A group of gunmen launched a coordinated attack on a hotel in the Somali capital of Mogadishu on Saturday, leaving at least 15 people dead and 25 others injured, according to police. The attack began with a car bomb that blew up outside the hotel, continued with a suicide bombing that came as gunmen stormed the building and apparently shot at anybody in sight. "They were shooting at everyone they could see. I escaped through the back door," one witness said.

The attackers then took hostages but security forces managed to chase down the militants to the top floor of the hotel. It isn’t clear whether any hostages were among the casualties, with police only saying that those killed include security guards, civilians, and a few of the attackers.

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Islamist militant group Al-Shabaab immediately claimed responsibility for the attack. "We attacked the hotel which was frequented by the apostate government members," al Shabaab military operations spokesman Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab told Reuters. He claimed at least 20 guards and civilians were killed in the attack, although Al-Shabaab regularly alleges a higher casualty count than what is announced by authorities.

It marked the second of this type of attack in a Mogadishu hotel in less than a month. Three weeks ago, suspected Al-Sabaab gunmen stormed another popular hotel in Mogadishu and killed at least 13 people.

June 25 2016 5:14 PM

Trump No Longer Backs Blanket Ban on Muslims Entering U.S.

Donald Trump appeared to soften his tone in two critical campaign promises on Saturday, saying his supposed blanket ban on Muslims entering the United States wouldn’t really be a full-on prohibition as he also walked back promises of mass deportations.

The day began with the presumptive Republican nominee appearing to contradict his vow to fully ban Muslims from entering the United States, telling reporters on a golf course in Scotland that he wants to restrict entry by people from a number of “terror countries.” That came after he said that it “wouldn’t bother me” if a Scottish Muslim entered the United States. Which countries would he consider to be “terror countries”? Trump didn’t specify. "They're pretty well-decided. All you have to do is look!"

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Even then, though, it didn’t sound like Trump was saying citizens from certain countries should be fully banned, suggesting there could be a vetting process that would allow exceptions. "I don't want people coming in from the terror countries. You have terror countries! I don't want them, unless they're very, very strongly vetted."

Even without the details, it appeared to mark quite a shift from his previous written-down position of “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.” That statement is still on his website but Trump press secretary Hope Hicks confirmed that this is indeed the policy, although she said it wasn’t really new.

Hicks said in an email that her boss took this new position—which is a dramatic scaling back of the position he first took in early December—during a policy speech nearly two weeks ago. In that speech, Trump did not mention Muslims and called for a temporary ban on "certain people coming from certain horrible—where you have tremendous terrorism in the world, you know what those places are." At the time, it appeared that Trump was expanding his ban to include more people, not limiting its scope.

Hicks wasn’t alone. Other staffers appeared to want to spin it into a non-news story, saying that’s what Trump has been advocating for weeks. "It is about terrorism and not about religion. It is about Muslims from countries that support terrorism," National Finance Chairman Steven Mnuchin said.

Later, in an interview with Bloomberg, Trump implied he would not pursue a policy of mass deportations because he has “the biggest heart of anybody.” He also criticized President Obama’s policies on the issue, saying he “has mass deported vast numbers of people—the most ever, and it’s never reported. I think people are going to find that I have not only the best policies, but I will have the biggest heart of anybody.” When he was asked specifically about whether he would pursue a policy of “mass deportation,” Trump was direct: “No, I would not call it mass deportations.” Trump had previously called for deporting the approximately 11 million undocumented immigrants who are currently living in the United States.

June 25 2016 3:30 PM

West Virginia Calls for Federal Aid as Flooding Kills at Least 26

At least 26 people have been killed in West Virginia in what amounts to the deadliest flash flooding in the United States since 2010. The death toll from the floods that have battered the state in recent days rose overnight Friday after the bodies of three more victims were found. West Virginia Gov. Early Ray Tomblin said he had requested help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to assist in three particularly hard-hit counties where floods have devastated homes and infrastructure.

The flooding began after heavy rain hit portions of the state on Thursday and Friday. “The amount of rain that recently fell on parts of West Virginia and southern Virginia exceeded a once-in-a-century event for the specific area and resulted in catastrophic flooding in some communities,”AccuWeather senior meteorologist Alex Sosnowski said.

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Although the water was receding on Saturday, officials said that people still needed to be careful due to “flood debris, downed power lines, and downed trees.” More than 32,000 homes were still without power on Saturday morning.

Amid dramatic photos of the devastation, one video making the rounds on social media showing a burning home drifting down a creek pushed authorities to turn off natural gas service in some areas.

June 25 2016 12:56 PM

Pentagon Set to End Ban on Transgender Troops as Early as Next Week

The Defense Department is getting ready to end its ban on transgender service members in a move that would end a year of internal debate about the issue. The repeal could come as early as July 1, according to USA Today. Others, however, are more conservative in their estimates. The Washington Post, for example, hears the exact date of the announcement has not been determined yet but would happen “within weeks” while Reuters reports that the change will be announced sometime in July.

Although the repeal is expected to be immediate, each service would be given as long as a year to implement new policies on things such as recruiting, housing, and uniforms to implement the shift. The move would come five years after the Pentagon ended a ban on gays and lesbians serving openly in the military and one year after Defense Secretary Ashton Carter set up a working group to study the issue.

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Republican Rep. Marc Thornberry, who is the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, has raised questions about the plan that he says have yet to be fully addressed by the Pentagon. “If reports are correct, I believe Secretary Carter has put the political agenda of a departing administration ahead of the military’s readiness crisis," Thornberry said. The Pentagon says it resonded to all of Thornberry's concerns back in September.

June 25 2016 11:31 AM

EU Tells UK to Get on With Brexit Already as London Warns of Long Process

European Union governments had a clear message for Britain as everyone woke up with Brexit hangover: Just leave already. European leaders tried to move quickly on Saturday to stop the bleeding and try to contain the pain of the cataclysmic UK vote to leave the EU. In London, however, leaders made it clear the formal exit process won’t begin for several months, suggesting a long period of uncertainty about what will actually happen and how this divorce will come to pass.

"There is a certain urgency ... so that we don't have a period of uncertainty, with financial consequences, political consequences," French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said at a meeting of the six founding nations of the European Union. German Chancellor Angela Merkel tried to strike a more diplomatic tone, making clear she wasn’t particularly fond of the idea of pushing for a quick exit. "It shouldn't take forever, that's right, but I would not fight for a short timeframe," she said.

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Seems Merkel may just be accepting reality. As the Guardian points out, there seems to be little the European Union can do to push Britain to leave the bloc. “There is no mechanism to compel a state to withdraw from the European Union,” said Kenneth Armstrong, a European law professor.

Scotland, in contrast, is in no mood to wait and is seeking immediate talks with the European Union to make sure it can remain in the bloc. The Scottish government will “explore possible options to protect Scotland's place in the EU," Scottish leader Nicola Sturgeon said. A new referendum on independence is “very much on the table,” she added.

June 25 2016 10:56 AM

How to Pick the Least Xenophobic Euro 2016 Team to Root for Post-Brexit

Now that the drama of the Brexit vote is over and the catastrophe that is a post-EU Britain is underway, it’s time to re-focus on what’s best about Europe, the knock-out stages of Euro 2016. But what if, somehow, your favorite team was eliminated in the group stages? Or you were planning on supporting England, Wales, or Northern Ireland and have developed second thoughts? Or say you’ve been focused on the better soccer being played in the U.S. at the Copa America? Or, perhaps you’re new to the sport—difficult to imagine if you’re reading this—and you just don’t know whom to root for? If any of these scenarios describe you, here are some principles on choosing a team for the duration of the tournament (or through Monday, depending on your choice).Before we get to the guidelines, a word—actually a phrase—on why this is so difficult. That phrase is “European history.” Before the tournament began, my fantasy soccer league (full disclosure: many of the participants in the league are writing for this blog) engaged in a heated discussion around the question of whether it was possible to choose a team that was devoid of historical baggage. When it comes to Europe (and frankly almost any country, especially if you go back far enough in history to a time when there were no countries) it’s pretty challenging to find a nation that hasn’t engaged in something atrocious. Like Spain? How do you justify supporting the state that sponsored the Inquisition and the conquest of the Americas? You’re an Anglophile, then. The record of the British Empire, particularly in east Africa and India is far from spotless. Germany, perhaps? Oh, right. (And you don’t want to jump on the World Cup winning bandwagon anyway).

Unless you want to support Costa Rica you’re going to have to come to grips with the fact that the national team you’re cheering for represents a nation that has done something historically reprehensible. So here are some guidelines to help you navigate the perils of decision-making.

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  1. Our first premise is that, as a Slate reader you’re probably support things like economic integration and subscribe to the uncontroversial idea that immigration is a good thing because diversity is a good thing and immigrants bring skills, knowledge, and drive that make the countries receiving them stronger. If you don’t buy into this premise, enjoy the Three Lions, but assuming you do, then you’re looking for a team that features players whose parents immigrated or perhaps are immigrants themselves. Almost every team will have one or two of these players, and if you go back further than one generation you’ll find more, but some teams, like some countries, are more willing to incorporate players of diverse parentage. Your best choices in this regard are probably France, Switzerland, Belgium, Germany, and Italy. Austria was a solid contender on the diversity front, but not so much with the football.
  2. Diversity is good, but with some of these countries there’s a catch: colonialism. France may have the highest number of players with parents who were born in other countries, but a number of these countries were French colonies, and their presence is a reminder that France, though it may be hard to remember it now, was one of the world’s most extensive colonial powers. Interestingly enough, none of the current French team descends from Algeria, the country with perhaps the most complicated French-colonial history—thanks to Karim Benzema allegedly blackmailing a teammate and getting booted off the team. Many of France’s players descend from African parents, but not all of them were from former French colonies like Mali and Senegal. French back-up goalkeeper Steve Mandanda was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, as were Eliaquim Mangala’s parents and Blaise Matuidi’s father came from Angola, a Portuguese colony. Any team featuring players who emigrated from Africa or had parents who did is going to have this colonial problem, unless those players are Ethiopian or Liberian. I’m not going to get into the question of whether some forms of imperialism was better than others, though. This is supposed to be about soccer.
  3. The third principle to consider is the country’s more recent history, both in respect to immigration, historical bad action, and levels of racism and xenophobia. This last criterion should knock out Italy—home of racist monkey chants and sad Mario Balotelli—which is so desperate to add some offense that they naturalized the Brazilian Eder. Despite his goal earlier in the tournament, the strategy of naturalizing Brazilians seems to be yielding diminishing returns possibly because Brazil’s national team is garbage right now and for the past decade Brazil has been dumping low-quality footballers on the world market in such a way that if they weren’t over-priced athletes the WTO would be slapping sanctions on them. Despite their having a better record on the recent European migrant crisis than most and a number of excellent players with Turkish parents, there are going to be those who can’t support Germany for the same reason my grandmother will never buy a German car. Also, they win a lot and it’s fun to root for the underdog.
  4. If you really want your footballing support to make a statement about your politics and let people know that you support the plight of European migrants, you might consider the Swiss. Their team features five players with Kosovar Albanian roots plus one with Bosnian parents and another whose parents were Kurds. They also have players born in Cameroon and the Ivory Coast and no unfortunate colonial past. Of course they do have that neutrality thing, and that white cross crest might be a deal-breaker. Plus you might not want to associate yourself with a country more known for shady banking, expensive watches and the World Economic Forum than for football.
  5. Assuming you have made peace with your new country’s colonial past, and you want to show your support for global integration, cosmopolitanism and well, for Europe, there’s really only one choice: Belgium. For many, the horrific history of the Congo will make the Red Devils a non-starter. And that nickname is problematic for any actual football fans who despise Manchester United (as they should.) But the Belgian team has players with a remarkable degree of diversity in their backgrounds including Radja Nainggolan whose mother is Belgian and father Indonesian, and Marouane Fellaini whose parents were Moroccan. They have a left-back who plays in MLS, which has to count for something. Belgium produces delicious beer and French fries and waffles. Most important, nothing says “I support the EU” like cheering lustily for the country where the EU parliament is.

So, if you want to both forget about the Brexit and stand up for European unity and diversity, pull on the black, red ,and gold of the boys from Belgium and hope that their coach Marc Wilmots develops a clue about what to do with all the talent he has at his disposal. With any luck, you’ll have more than one game to support your new team. And if they lose, against Hungary, then you can root for Iceland like all the other hipsters.

June 24 2016 7:42 PM

Brexit Was Born in a Crappy Chicago O’Hare Pizzeria. But Which One?

In the sprawling fallout of the “Leave” victory in the U.K.’s Brexit referendum, one incredible detail about how the referendum may have come to be to begin with has been the subject of controversy. It involves, of all places, Chicago.

This all started with a referendum postmortem by the Financial Times’ George Parker and Alex Barker, published this morning. In the piece, Parker and Barker describe the behind-the-scenes discussions in 2012 between Cameron and former foreign secretary William Hague about what a referendum would mean for the Tories. They were awaiting their flight home after the NATO conference held in Chicago that year:

Mr Cameron backed by William Hague, the former foreign secretary, concluded that the only way to hold the party together through the 2015 general election campaign was to promise an EU referendum.
The setting for that fateful decision: a pizza restaurant at Chicago O’Hare airport, where Mr Cameron met with Mr Hague and Ed Llewellyn, his trusted chief of staff and an old-hand in Brussels.
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Reread that sentence.

According to Parker and Barker, the decision to go forward with a referendum that led this morning to Cameron’s resignation as prime minister, the collapse of the British pound, a rout in global markets and could yet lead to a recession as well as the dissolution of the European Union and the 300-year old United Kingdom itself—once the seat of the largest empire mankind has ever known—was made over a meal of airport pizza in Chicago.

Parker and Barker aren’t the only ones to have described a pizza summit.

In August, the Daily Mail’s Anthony Seldon also alluded to a meeting between Hague and Cameron at O’Hare:

But by spring 2012, the pressure for Cameron to commit to a referendum is virtually unstoppable. Having been initially reluctant, Osborne is won round. And on May 21 at the improbable location of a pizza restaurant at Chicago’s O’Hare airport it is settled.
Cameron sits down with William Hague and they agree to offer a referendum before the end of 2017. Osborne still has reservations. But Cameron can hold out no longer and the referendum is duly announced.

Predictably, reaction to the news that Brexit had been set in motion over airport grub thousands of miles away from 10 Downing was unkind.

And understandably so. Still, this listing from Eater of O’Hare’s dining options in 2012 suggests that Brexit could have begun even less auspiciously. Just imagine. What if Cameron had opted instead to launch the effort that would unseat the U.K. as the world’s fifth-largest economy while sipping a vanilla shake at Smoothie King? What if the door to the independence Scots may now try again to pursue after centuries of union had been opened at Burrito Beach? Isn’t it plausible Cameron may just as easily have initiated the final embarrassment of a nation that once lorded over nearly a fourth of the world’s land mass while picking cheesecorn out of his teeth at Nuts on Clark?

But hours after the Financial Times piece went up, Chicago Aviation Spokesman Owen Kilmer told the Chicago Tribune that the meeting never happened:

Kilmer said Friday that Cameron, who was in Chicago for a NATO summit at the time, was whisked straight from his private flight straight into a vehicle that took him downtown and that security measures meant that "he was never in any of the terminals at O'Hare ... when he arrived or when he departed." It's therefore not possible that Cameron ate at an O'Hare restaurant, although he may have grabbed a slice somewhere else, Kilmer said.

And so would’ve concluded the greatest food story in British politics since Ed Milliband’s unfortunate bacon sandwich breakfast in 2014—exactly two years to the day after Cameron’s alleged pizza summit—but for the fact that Cameron’s meal was apparently observed by multiple eyewitnesses.

Slate has reached out to both Kvam and ITV’s Robert Moore and has yet to receive comment. Moore was also the author of a piece published the day after his tweet that described the phantom meeting in more detail and claimed Cameron departed Chicago on a commercial American Airlines flight:

Last night, as I passed through Chicago's O'Hare Airport, the Prime Minister was eating at a fast-food cafe, surrounded by fellow passengers, waiting for an American Airlines flight back to London. I was with Cameron's National Security Adviser Kim Darroch. "Austerity Britain," he smiled.

Moore’s account raises additional questions. How would Cameron have been able to hold a private and tremendously consequential meeting while rubbing elbows with other passengers? And if Hague and Llewellyn were present, why were they not mentioned as Cameron’s National Security Adviser Kim Darroch was?

In any case, it seems that either the Chicago Aviation Authority is wrong or multiple people experienced roughly the same hallucination that evening at O’Hare, a place that, in fairness, induces transient bouts of insanity in innumerable travelers every single day.

So where would this meeting have happened if it did in fact happen? One restaurant seems like a particularly likely candidate.

Brexit was likely birthed in a Pizzeria UNO in O’Hare’s Terminal 3, the hub for all American Airlines flights. As Eater’s listing indicates, the location has been in the terminal since at least late 2012 and was the only probable sit-down pizzeria in the terminal at the time the list was compiled.

The Terminal 3 location doesn’t seem to have a page online, but reviews of UNO’s O’Hare locations in general have been decidedly mixed, with some comparing the “watery” pizzas served unfavorably with Chicago’s locally beloved deep-dish pizzas as offered at chains such as Giordano’s:

Other customers seem pleased with Terminal 5's location, even going as far as to vouch for the authenticity of UNO’s pies:

Cameron's meeting could also plausibly have been held at one of the two other sit-down places in the terminal serving pizza at the time—a Macaroni Grill and a Wolfgang Puck restaurant. After all, Moore says that Cameron’s meal was at a “fast-food” place and not necessarily a pizzeria. But the Grill and the Puck restaurant don’t really seem to fit the bill as “fast-food” joints, either. (Eater’s list describes them as “leisurely” spots.) It seems a good bet that the pizza restaurant specified in the Financial Times and the Daily Mail pieces was, in fact, a pizza restaurant. Terminal 3 also had a Reggio’s in 2012, but a Yelp search suggests both that Reggio’s lacks seating and that the quality of its pizza makes a Cameron meeting there simply too horrible to contemplate.

Slate has yet to hear from the food management company at O’Hare about Cameron’s meeting or plans for a commemorative plaque. But diners at the Terminal 3 Pizzeria UNO—now, it seems, an UNO’s Pizza Express—have good reason to believe their pies are being served in one of the most consequential spots in geopolitical history. Thanks to Cameron, we have an addition to make to the list of meeting places that have changed the modern world: Versailles, Yalta, Bretton Woods, and the Terminal 3 Pizzeria UNO at O’Hare.

June 24 2016 6:10 PM

The Friday Slatest Newsletter

What a day. Our biggest stories:

Have a good weekend out there.

June 24 2016 5:52 PM

Today's Trump Apocalypse Watch: Narcissistic Trump Disorder

The Trump Apocalypse Watch is a subjective daily estimate, using a scale of one to four horsemen, of how likely it is that Donald Trump will be elected president, thus triggering an apocalypse in which we all die.

Remember when one of Donald Trump's first reactions to the massacre in Orlando was to say he appreciated how many people were congratulating him for having predicted jihad murders on American soil? Today, reporters asked Trump—who is in Scotland on a trip to promote one of his golf courses—what he thought of the Brexit, the world-shaking event that has put markets in Trump's home country in turmoil and caused a steep decline in the value of the currency of the country he's currently in. One of the first things Trump brought up in response was that the crash would be good for tourism to his golf course.

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There's a political saying: "Never waste a crisis." Since becoming the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump now appears to be 0 for 2.

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Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Getty Images, Wikimedia Commons

June 24 2016 5:29 PM

Public Service Announcement: The U.K. Is Much Whiter Than the U.S.

While a number of factors are obviously involved, many observers believe that the Brexit "Leave" vote is in part attributable to the resentment that many white Britons feel towards nonwhite immigrants. Donald Trump's United States presidential campaign, as it happens, is motivated almost entirely by such resentments. It's thus natural to suggest, as the Washington Post did Friday morning, that the surprising success of "Leave" should be taken as a warning about the potential upset potency of Trump's candidacy. If it could happen there, it could happen here, etc.

Here's the thing, though: The United Kingdom is much, much whiter than the United States. Non-Hispanic whites account for 62 percent of the U.S. population. (Trump has made it pretty clear how he feels about individuals who might consider themselves both white and Hispanic: They are "Mexican," and they are suspicious.) By contrast, 87 percent of the U.K. population is white. (It doesn't appear that there are a statistically significant number of Hispanic whites in the country.) Or, in visual form:

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Photos by Evan Agostini/Getty Images and Chris Jackson/Getty Images. Chart designed by Natalie Matthews-Ramo.

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So there you go. It should be a lot harder for a campaign reliant on white resentment to win a national election in the U.S. than in the U.K. So don't worry about it! Don't even bother voting, things will probably be fine. Hell, vote for Trump if you want, just as a goof! LOL.

Just kidding. Please don't do that!

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