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10 things you need to know today: June 27, 2014

Harold Maass
A Syrian rebel shows off his guns. (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen, File)
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Obama requests $500 million in military aid for Syrian rebels

President Obama on Thursday asked Congress for $500 million to "train and equip" Syrian opposition fighters — his first request for such direct military aid to rebels fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government. Opposition groups receiving the aid will be vetted to make sure they have no ties to Islamist militants, and no decision has been made on specific weapons rebels will get if Congress approves the aid. [Los Angeles Times]


U.S. loses to Germany but still advances in World Cup

The U.S. men's soccer team lost 1-0 to Germany on Thursday, but still advanced to the second round of the World Cup, thanks to Portugal's 2-1 victory over Ghana. The results left the U.S. tied with Portugal at four points apiece, but the U.S. had the edge in goal differentials. Skeptics had doubted the U.S. would survive round one in a group with German and Portugal — both ranked in the world's top four. Next the U.S. faces Belgium on Tuesday. [Star-Ledger]


Justices call Massachusetts abortion-clinic buffer zone unconstitutional

The Supreme Court on Thursday unanimously struck down a Massachusetts law setting a 35-foot buffer zone around abortion clinics, saying it violated protesters' constitutional right to free speech. Massachusetts argued that the buffer zone allowed anti-abortion protesters to have their say while keeping patients and clinic staff safer. Chief Justice John Roberts said the zones "burden substantially more speech than necessary." [MSNBC]


Ukraine and two other former Soviet republics sign trade pacts with Europe

Ukraine, along with fellow ex-Soviet republics Georgia and Moldova, signed historic free-trade agreements with the European Union on Friday. The deals tied the countries' economic fortunes to the 28-nation bloc and risked widening a rift with Russia, which has demanded talks before any agreement between Europe and Ukraine. It previously vowed to respond if any deal threatened its economy, as it said this pact would. [Bloomberg]


High court slams Obama over recess appointments

The Supreme Court scolded President Obama on Thursday over his recess appointments during brief Senate breaks. The justices said Obama violated the Constitution in 2012 by using recess appointments to fill spots on the National Labor Relations Board even though the chamber was holding brief pro forma sessions every three days. The justices said such appointments were only justified during breaks of 10 or more days. [The New York Times]


Judge upholds Colorado gun laws

A federal judge on Thursday upheld gun laws Colorado's Democratic-controlled legislature passed in 2013 following deadly shooting rampages. Sheriffs and gun-rights advocates sued to block the measures, which banned magazines with more than 15 rounds and required more background checks, calling them unconstitutional. U.S. District Chief Judge Marcia Krieger said civilians never fire more than 15 shots in self-defense. [Reuters]


U.S. drones hunt for insurgents as Iraqi leaders discuss a new government

Armed U.S. drones began flying over Iraq on Thursday as the Shiite-led government held meetings on who should head a new government and tackle a Sunni extremist insurgency. For the first time, even members of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's party are suggesting he should be replaced. Shiites are taking up arms across Iraq in a bid to halt advances by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS. [The New York Times]


Kansas' Andrew Wiggins picked first in NBA draft

The Cleveland Cavaliers snapped up Kansas small forward Andrew Wiggins as the first pick in the NBA draft Thursday night. It was the second year in a row the Cavs got first choice, and the second year in a row they picked a Canadian-born player (last year it was Anthony Bennett). The Milwaukee Bucks took Duke forward Jabari Parker as the No. 2 pick, and the Philadelphia 76ers chose Kansas center Joel Embiid at No. 3. [Los Angeles Times]


ABC fires two stars of The View

ABC executives cleaned house on the network's morning talk show, The View, leaving co-host Whoopi Goldberg as the lone holdover. Network management gave co-host Sherri Shepherd the boot in an afternoon meeting. Sources also said that former Playboy Playmate Jenny McCarthy, who replaced Elisabeth Hasselbeck in July but never clicked with viewers, is also out, as is executive producer Bill Geddie. [New York Daily News]


Former Senate leader Howard Baker dies at 88

Former Senate majority leader Howard Baker — a key player in the Watergate hearings and once Ronald Reagan's chief of staff — died on Thursday at age 88. The Tennessee Republican's wife, former senator Nancy Kassebaum, and two children from his first marriage said this was a "time of sorrow and also a time for the celebration of a remarkable life." President Obama said Baker's role as the "Great Conciliator" won him admirers across party lines. [CNN]

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