Al Qaeda-linked Sunni militants overran a second city in northern Iraq — Tikrit — on Wednesday, and vowed to push south to Baghdad. The rapid advance is being made easier by the crumbling of the Iraqi military. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's Shiite-led government reportedly covertly asked the U.S. in May to use airstrikes against Sunni extremists, but President Obama declined to avoid getting the U.S. involved in Iraq again.
Sunni insurgents seize another major Iraqi city
Eric Cantor gives up his leadership post after losing his GOP primary
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor confirmed Wednesday that he was resigning from his leadership post at the end of July. The announcement came a day after Cantor lost his Virginia Republican primary to Tea Party-backed economics professor David Brat. It was the first time a House majority leader had been defeated in a primary election since 1899, when the position was created.
Student reportedly hid guns in a guitar case before Oregon shooting
Jared Michael Padgett, the Oregon high-school student who police say killed a fellow student and then himself, arrived at school armed for a long rampage, investigators said Wednesday. Padgett rode the school bus as always, but carried a guitar case and a duffel bag loaded with an AR 15-style rifle, a semi-automatic handgun, and nine loaded magazines with hundreds of bullets. Police did not release any theories on a motive for the shooting.
Ukraine's new president offers to talk with pro-Russia rebels
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko indicated Wednesday that he would meet for talks with pro-Russia separatists in eastern Ukraine, but first, he said, "Terrorists must lay down their weapons." The rebels have not signaled any interest in diplomacy, however. Poroshenko was inaugurated on Saturday and addressed the crisis immediately, meeting with Moscow's envoy and with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Budget deficit decreases as the economy recovers
The federal deficit fell in May to $130 billion as a strengthening economy and rising employment boosted tax revenue. The U.S. has now had the smallest budget shortfall for the first eight months of any fiscal year since 2008. "Our fiscal position is rapidly normalizing as the economy recovers," said Paul Edelstein, director of U.S. financial economics at IHS Global Insight Inc.
Senate passes bill aiming to help veterans get health care faster
The Senate on Wednesday passed a bill to help veterans facing long waits for health care get treated by private doctors. The vote was 93 to 3. The House passed a similar bill on Tuesday. President Obama has already come out in support of the Senate bill. "The cost of war does not end when the last shots are fired and the last missiles are launched," said Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).
U.S. resumes Pakistan drone strikes after Karachi airport attacks
The U.S. launched the first two drone strikes of the year against Taliban and other Islamist extremists in Pakistan on Wednesday, killing 16 militants. The strikes came after two attacks this week at Karachi's international airport. Last Christmas, the U.S. stopped the strikes at the request of Pakistan's government, which was then pursuing peace talks with the Pakistani Taliban.
Driver in Tracy Morgan crash pleads not guilty
Walmart driver Kevin Roper, whose truck slammed into a limousine carrying Tracy Morgan and several other comedians, pleaded not guilty to death and assault by auto charges on Wednesday. Prosecutors say Roper hadn't slept in more than 24 hours and swerved to avoid slower traffic. The crash killed comic James McNair. Walmart says it believes Roper was in compliance with federal safety rules regarding rest time between shifts.
Court gives Casey Kasem's daughter the right to stop his feeding and hydration
A Los Angeles judge on Wednesday said the daughter of former American Top 40 host Casey Kasem had the right to decide to remove the ailing radio icon's feeding and hydration tubes. The move angered Kasem's wife, Jean, who has been feuding with his children from an earlier marriage to continue the feeding. Kasem's daughter Kerri said the ruling would let Kasem's children respect his "explicit wishes" not to be kept alive by artificial means.
Stadium safety concerns linger as Brazil starts World Cup play
Soccer's World Cup kicks off Thursday with a match between the host country, Brazil, and Croatia. Play will begin with worries still looming over the safety and readiness of Itaquerao stadium, which is unfinished and will be accommodating a full-capacity crowd of 61,600 for the first time. "If that was me who had to run that event, I'd be extremely nervous," said European stadium safety official John Beattie.