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News Wrap: Iraqi government reports gains against ISIL

July 4, 2014 at 6:02 PM EST
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TRANSCRIPT

JUDY WOODRUFF: The United States observes 238 years of independence today, and, except for some serious weather disruptions on each coast, Americans across the land found ways to celebrate.

July 4 wouldn’t be the same without its patriotic parades, and from Philadelphia, to Indiana, to the nation’s capital, there were plenty to watch.

MAN: I hereby declare on oath.

JUDY WOODRUFF: At the White House, President Obama spent the morning welcoming a group of foreign-born military service members as they took their oath of citizenship in a special ceremony.

He also used the moment to repeat his call for a revamp of immigration laws.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: If we want to keep attracting the best and brightest from beyond our shores, we’re going to have to fix our immigration system, which is broken, and pass commonsense immigration reform. We shouldn’t be making it harder for the best and the brightest to come here, and create jobs here, and grow our economy here. We should be making it easier.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well south of Washington, in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, thousands of Americans put their July 4 plans on hold to get out of the way of Hurricane Arthur. It brought heavy rains and sustained winds of 100 miles an hour when it made landfall at Cape Lookout late last night.

MAY SPRUILL: I made out great, but I was very afraid. When the wind came through at about 5:30 this morning, it woke me up. And to my — it didn’t wake my husband up, so I woke him up and I said, David, next time I say to leave, let’s leave.

JUDY WOODRUFF: In the light of day, there was heavy coastal flooding, and about 40,000 people lost power. But no injuries from the storm were reported.

In the Western U.S., drier weather was the problem, as a massive 3,000-foot-tall dust storm swept across Southern Arizona last night. It knocked out power and canceled flights and fireworks celebrations. And farther west, in California, the dry conditions fueled several wildfires. In the mountain town of Julian, Fourth of July celebrations that draw about 5,000 spectators were canceled. The fire there is only 40 percent contained.

A little more than an hour north of those fires, about 120 demonstrators from both sides of the immigration debate massed again outside a U.S. Border Patrol station in the city of Murrieta. They rallied as another convoy of migrants who illegally crossed into the U.S. from Mexico was expected to arrive at the agency for processing.

On Tuesday, protesters at the same site blocked buses carrying migrants from Central America. They had been flown in from Texas, where facilities are overwhelmed by the influx.

The Department of Veterans Affairs is facing more criticism today after a veteran died just 500 yards from an emergency room. The man collapsed Monday in an Albuquerque VA hospital cafeteria and waited 20 minutes for an ambulance. The E.R. is a five-minute walk next door, but hospital policy requires staff to call 911. That policy is now under review. The VA has already come under fire for major delays in veterans’ treatment.

Iraqi government troops reported gains against Islamic militants today on two battlefields. They recaptured the village of Awja, the birthplace of the former dictator Saddam Hussein. And they made headway in taking back Iraq’s largest oil refinery in Baiji. Government airstrikes there killed up to 30 insurgents. Also today, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki vowed to defeat the militants and signaled he won’t abandon a bid for a third term in office.

Senior officials in Ukraine today accused Russia of letting separatist rebels use its territory to attack Ukrainian border posts. Ukraine’s secretary of national security said Russian troops are also still massing near its border, a charge Russia denies.

ANDRIY PARUBIY, Secretary, National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine (through interpreter): There’s a constant movement of military equipment and armed forces of the Russian Federation close to Ukraine’s border. I want to underline that the violation of Ukraine’s border continues. Attacks are taking place at checkpoints of our military and border guards, which were set up to defend the state border.

JUDY WOODRUFF: In spite of that, as of today, Ukrainian forces claimed control of 23 of the 36 regions in the Donetsk and Luhansk provinces that have declared independence.

Billionaire newspaper publisher Richard Mellon Scaife died today at his home in Pittsburgh. The heir to the Mellon banking and oil fortune also funded libertarian and conservative causes. In the 1990s, several of his foundations also gave millions to organizations that were run by critics of President Bill Clinton. Scaife was 82 years old.