Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was sworn in for a third seven-year term Wednesday morning, The Associated Press reports.
President al-Assad, 48, called the Syrian people winners of a "dirty war" with outsiders, saying countries that supported the Syrian opposition "will pay a high price." His third term begins amid Syria's civil war, which is now in its fourth year and has killed more than 170,000 people, according to the AP. President al-Assad maintains that the civil war was caused by "terrorists," and his troops have made "steady advances" on rebels in the past year, the AP reports.
In a landslide victory last month, President al-Assad was re-elected with 88.7 percent of the vote, though opposition-held parts of Syria were excluded from the voting. The election was the country's first multi-candidate election in several decades.
"I swear by the Almighty God to respect the country's constitution, laws, and its republican system and to look after the interests of the people and their freedoms," President al-Assad said at the ceremony, which was broadcast live on Syrian state TV. He also pledged to continue fighting "terrorism" from rebels. Meghan DeMaria
President Trump returned Saturday night from his trip abroad to a White House mulling serious changes to contain escalating federal investigations into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
Among the changes reportedly under consideration: a reduced role for Press Secretary Sean Spicer; the re-hiring of fired Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski; advance legal vetting of Trump's tweets; and a heftier schedule of press conferences, live social media appearances, and campaign-style rallies permitting the president to speak directly to the media and public.
While Trump was traveling, credible allegations surfaced that his son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, attempted to set up a secret communication channel with Russia in December. So far, there is no suggestion of Kushner stepping down. Bonnie Kristian
North Korean state media on Sunday reported the isolated regime has tested "a new type of anti-aircraft guided weapon" under the observation of leader Kim Jong Un.
"This weapon system, whose operation capability has been thoroughly verified, should be mass-produced to deploy all over the country," said the KCNA news agency story, "so as to completely spoil the enemy's wild dream to command the air, boasting of air supremacy and weapon almighty."
This is Pyongyang's third Sunday test in a row; the tests performed one and two weeks ago both used mid-range ballistic missiles. Next week, the U.S. military will test a system for shooting down an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of carrying a nuclear weapon, which is North Korea's stated development goal. Bonnie Kristian
Beekeepers in the United States saw a third of their honeybee colonies die between April 2016 and April 2017, an annual survey finds. That sounds grim, but it's actually a slight improvement over similar assessments in the last decade, in which an average of 40 percent of the colonies died off annually.
"I would stop short of calling this 'good' news," said Dennis vanEngelsdorp, a University of Maryland professor who is also a project director at the Bee Informed Partnership. "Colony loss of more than 30 percent over the entire year is high. It's hard to imagine any other agricultural sector being able to stay in business with such consistently high losses."
Some of the dead colonies may be salvaged, but the process isn't easy. One bumblebee species was added to the federal Endangered Species List earlier this year, and steady decline of bee populations is a serious and widespread problem that is believed to be linked to pesticide use.
"Bees are good indicators of the landscape as a whole," said Nathalie Steinhauer, who worked on the new survey. "To keep healthy bees, you need a good environment and you need your neighbors to keep healthy bees. Honeybee health is a community matter." Bonnie Kristian
President Trump may be asked to subject his tweets to legal scrutiny before posting them, The Wall Street Journal reported Friday night in a story covering changes to White House procedure Trump will entertain upon his return home from his tour abroad Saturday evening. The tweet vetting would be designed to avoid unforced errors as the Trump campaign and administration undergo scrutiny in federal investigations concerning Russian interference in the 2016 election:
One major change under consideration would see the president’s social media posts vetted by a team of lawyers, who would decide if any needed to be adjusted or curtailed. The idea, said one of Mr. Trump's advisers, is to create a system so that tweets "don't go from the president's mind out to the universe."
Some of Mr. Trump's tweets — from hinting that he may have taped conversations with Mr. Comey to suggesting without any evidence that former President Barack Obama wire-tapped Trump Tower — have opened him to criticism and at times confounded his communications team. Trump aides have long attempted to rein in his tweeting, and some saw any type of legal vetting as difficult to implement. [WSJ]
Many of Trump's critics and supporters alike have repeatedly (and unsuccessfully) urged the president to curtail his tweeting habits, as his posts often come back to bite him politically. Bonnie Kristian
National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster on Saturday said he "would not be concerned" by backchannel communications with Russia, though he declined to specifically comment on allegations that President Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner unsuccessfully attempted to arrange a secret communication channel between the Trump transition team and the Kremlin shortly after the election.
National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn and Press Secretary Sean Spicer also refused to discuss Kushner at Saturday's media briefing. "We're not going to comment on Jared," said Cohn. "We're just not going to comment."
McMaster did note the U.S. has "backchannel communications with a number of countries," though Kushner was a private citizen and not an authorized representative of Washington at the time when he allegedly spoke with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
Kushner's legal team said Friday night he has "no recollection" of the alleged conversation with Kislyak, and he is happy to speak with federal investigators about his role in the Trump campaign. Bonnie Kristian
After an introduction from First Lady Melania Trump, the president began by pointing to a helicopter he could see landing in the distance, wondering if the craft contained Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe — or perhaps "Justin from Canada," which is probably a reference to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and not Canadian pop star Justin Bieber.
— John Roberts (@johnrobertsFox) May 27, 2017
Trump's speech quickly turned to more serious matters, with a lengthy section about "eradicating the terrorism that plagues our planet." He condemned this week's terrorist attacks on concert attendees in England and Coptic Christians in Egypt, vowing cooperation with allies to "confront the shared threat of terrorism."
Toward the end of his speech, the president spoke of honoring fallen American forces on Memorial Day. "There is no peace without those willing to bear the scars and wounds of war," he said. "There is no strength without those brave enough to protect the weak and the people that need protection. And there is no prosperity at home without those willing to shoulder our burdens overseas."
"You are the warriors of freedom," Trump told the assembled troops. "You are the ones who protect the God-given freedoms that are the birthright of every single American child." Watch the entire speech below. Bonnie Kristian
Police evacuated London's Old Vic theater, located near Waterloo Station, during a performance on Saturday in response to an unspecified security threat. The area was isolated as "specialist officers" investigated the scene, but ultimately nothing suspicious was found.
— Rachel Griffin (@Carryonsmiling) May 27, 2017
The false alarm comes less than a week after a suicide bombing in Manchester, England, during an Ariana Grande concert left 22 people dead and dozens more injured. The play that was interrupted is a showing of Woyzeck featuring Star Wars actor John Boyega.
This is a breaking news story and has been updated throughout. Bonnie Kristian