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10 things you need to know today: June 21, 2014

Sarah Eberspacher
The U.S. is sending additional judges and attorneys to Texas to expedite asylum claims. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, Pool)
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Obama administration announces new measures to counteract illegal immigration

The United States will not tolerate a surge of women and children crossing the Mexico border into Texas, administration officials said on Friday as they announced new measures to stymie the recent immigrant influx. Many of those crossing the border are from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, and the White House said it will invest $9.6 million to help those countries repatriate their citizens. The administration is also sending additional immigration judges and attorneys to Texas, in order to expedite asylum claims. More than 52,000 unaccompanied minors, and 39,000 adults with children have been apprehended along the border so far this year. [The Washington Post]


Egypt court sentences more than 180 to death in mass trial

In what is considered the largest mass trial in recent Egyptian history, a court handed down more than 180 death sentences today, stemming from an August attack on a police station that killed one officer and one civilian. Those sentenced to death include the Muslim Brotherhood's spiritual leader, Mohammed Badie. However, the international community has condemned the mass death sentences, saying Egypt's government is becoming increasingly politicized. One man sentenced, Mustafa Youssef, "was born blind," noted his lawyer. "How would he kill, burn and loot?" [The Associated Press]


Ukraine begins unilateral ceasefire as Russia redeploys troops to border

Following weeks of fighting, new Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko instigated a week-long, unilateral ceasefire on Friday, although he was quick to note that while forces would not take offensive action against pro-Russian militants, they would still defend themselves against any attacks. During the week, separatists have a chance to turn in weapons, although the Donetsk People's Republic gave no sign of relenting as the ceasefire began. Meanwhile, U.S. officials said that Russia had sent tanks and heavy artillery back across the border on Friday, although Moscow claimed it was merely bolstering troops on its side of a border steeped in fighting. [The Washington Post]


U.N.: Number of displaced people reaches more than 50 million

For the first time since World War II, more than 50 million people are living under forced displacement, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. At least 51.2 million people, roughly the equivalent of the entire population of Spain, are currently seeking refuge or asylum, and at least half of that number are children. And with renewed violence in Iraq, the U.N, says the number may increase this year. "We are seeing here the immense costs of not ending wars," Antonio Guterres, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees says. "Peace is today dangerously in deficit." [NPR]


Iran, six powers remain in stalemate after nuclear settlement talks

Saying Iran will not reach an agreement until six big powers "abandon excessive demands," Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif left this week's nuclear talks in a stalemate. The United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany met with representatives from Tehran in an attempt to broker a deal to lift sanctions on Iran in exchange for more regulations on the country's nuclear work. The major powers are aiming for a July 20 deadline, in the midst of renewed fears of Middle East wars. [Reuters]


Report: Pentagon, VA not assessing success rate of PTSD treatments

A report released on Friday by the Institute of Medicine says neither the Department of Veterans Affairs nor the Pentagon is tracking the success of PTSD treatments offered to troops. The VA spent more than $3 billion on PTSD care in 2012, but it failed to study whether the treatments actually helped soldiers. Meanwhile, the Pentagon's treatments "appear to be local, ad hoc, incremental, crisis-driven, with little planning devoted to the development of a long-range approach to obtaining desired outcomes," the IOM reports. While five percent of all troops report cases of PTSD, the number is much higher for those who served in Afghanistan and Iraq. [Time]


Presbyterian Church will allow ministers to perform same-sex marriages

Changing its constitution's definition of marriage from "a man and a woman" to "two people," the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) voted on Thursday to allow ministers in states that have legalized same-sex marriages discretion to perform the nuptials. Actually changing the language in the church's Book of Order to reflect the amendment requires a year-long ratification process, and conservative members of the General Assembly may still push against that measure. "There were some of us with tears of joy, and some of us with tears of grief," Rev. Susan De George, a lesbian minister of the Hudson River Presbytery, in New York, said of the vote. [The New York Times]


Scientists discover new species of Neanderthal in Spain

Researchers published a description in the journal Science on Thursday of a new, Neanderthal-esque prehistoric human species. The remains, found in a cave in northern Spain, do not dramatically alter the current theory of human evolution. They do, however, suggest that there were several isolated, unique human species existing at the same time in different parts of the world, which may have eventually fought for the same land. [The Washington Post]


Disney taps Rian Johnson to write, direct Star Wars: Episode VIII

With production just barely underway on Star Wars: Episode VII, Disney and Lucasfilm have already selected director Rian Johnson to helm the next film in the series. Best known for Looper, a sci-fi action film featuring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis, Johnson also directed several episodes of Breaking Bad and was on the shortlist for the Star Trek reboot. [Variety]


Peanut the mutt wins 'World's Ugliest Dog' title

As far as titles go, "World's Ugliest Dog" sounds like one most canines would rather not win, but that's too bad for 2-year-old mutt Peanut. Peanut's owner, Holly Chandler, entered the dog in the 25th annual competition in California to bring attention to the traumas of pet abuse, and she said she will use the $1,500 prize to pay for other injured animals' veterinary expenses. While Peanut is healthy now, he was seriously burned as a puppy, resulting in the unsightly, hairless patches all over his body that earned him Friday's victory. [The Associated Press]

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