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The White House stepped up efforts today to win over Congress on the Iran nuclear deal, as lawmakers returned from their holiday recess.
Secretary of State John Kerry briefed House members this afternoon, and plans to brief senators tomorrow. He's trying to head off a bill that could bar President Obama from lifting some of the U.S. sanctions on Iran. JOHN KERRY, Secretary of State: We hope Congress will listen carefully and ask the question that it wants, but also give us the space and the time to be able to complete a very difficult task which has high stakes for our country, involves major national security, major issues of potential conflict vs. peaceful resolution.
Meanwhile, Russia announced it's clearing the way to send missile defense systems to Iran. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the framework nuclear agreement means there's no reason to withhold the weapons.
Fighting in Ukraine between government troops and Russian-backed rebels is escalating again, after more than a month of relative peace. European observers report new violence around the rebel stronghold of Donetsk, including nearly 1,200 explosions on Sunday alone. More than 6,000 people have died since the clashes first broke out there more than a year ago.
The Italian coast guard rescued 144 migrants off Libya today. They're the latest in a new surge of people trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea. Many of the rescued were taken to Sicily. Officials say they were on dozens of rickety boats that sailed from North Africa in recent weeks, as weather conditions improved.
In Barcelona today, the European Union's foreign policy chief expressed concern.
FEDERICA MOGHERINI, Foreign Policy Chief, European Union:
The official numbers of the people rescued at sea over the weekend by the — in this case, the Italian authorities, were 5,600 people over the weekend. And this tells us of an emergency that we have to tackle together for the sake of saving lives.
Italian officials estimate more than 170,000 migrants from Africa and the Middle East reached Italy by sea last year. Another 3,500 drowned making the attempt.
In Nigeria, the number of child refugees doubled in the past year to nearly 800,000. The United Nation's Children's Fund, UNICEF, says they have been forced from their homes by Boko Haram, the Islamist militant group. The report says children have been sexually abused, forced to marry militants, and even turned into human bombs.
Back in this country, a white reserve sheriff's deputy in Tulsa, Oklahoma, with charged with manslaughter today in the killing of a black suspect. On video of the April 2 incident, Robert Bates says he meant to pull his stun gun, not his revolver. Lawyers for the victim, Eric Harris, said today they don't believe that.
DANIEL SMOLEN, Lawyer for victim's family: The spin on Mr. Bates getting confused at the last second, before he pulls his Taser as opposed to his pistol, or vice versa, his pistol as opposed to his Taser, is false.
You will see Mr. Bates that has a yellow Taser strapped to his chest. He has a .357 revolver in his right hand standing over Eric Harris when shoots him in the back.
And in South Carolina, state authorities released audio of the white policeman who allegedly shot a black man in the back in North Charleston, killing him. It comes from the camera in police officer Michael Slager's cruiser.
He’s heard saying:
"I don't understand why he took off like that. I don't understand why he'd run."
Slager is now charged with murder.
Four former Blackwater security guards were sentenced today for killing 14 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad in 2007. One was given life in prison. The others got 30 years each. The four guarded State Department officials in Baghdad and said they opened fire after being shot at. Prosecutors called it an unprovoked ambush.
On Wall Street, stocks drifted lower to start the week. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 80 points to close below 18000. The Nasdaq fell seven points and the S&P 500 slipped nine.
And the Nobel Prize-winning German novelist Gunter Grass died today. He challenged Germans to face their Nazi past, but later had to admit his own.
Jon Snow of Independent Television News has this report on his life and work. One of the most venerated, but controversial literary figures, Gunter Grass, in his work and in his life, always chose to take a stand on moral, political and social issues.
For many, he gave a voice to the generation that came of age in Nazi Germany, driving them to confront the horrors of their history. His first novel was "The Tin Drum." It's partly based on his own beginnings. He grew up in the Free City of Danzig, now Gdansk. It is a story that takes place in the first half of the 20th century, under the rise of the Nazis, through the life of a boy who refuses to grow up.
FRANK-WALTER STEINMEIER, Foreign Minister, Germany (through interpreter):
Critics applauded Grass' magical realist style. And 40 years later, it won him the Nobel Prize for literature, hailed as one of the enduring works of the 20th century. He was praised for embracing the victims, losers and lies that people wanted to forget because they had once believed in them. Although a younger generation might have known Gunter Grass as one who warned and admonished, I know and my generation knows that he was a kind of a father figure for Germans growing up. He was a father figure who rubbed a lot of people the wrong way, especially those who after 1945 wanted to get the past behind them as quickly as possible.
He was a seasoned left-wing campaigner, speechwriter for Chancellor Willy Brandt in the early '70s. But in 2006, he shocked the world when, in his memoir, he admitted that at the very end of the war he had himself been a member of the elite Waffen-SS. He was accused of hypocrisy and moral suicide, but defended the fact that it had taken him 60 years to make his revelation.
GUNTER GRASS (through interpreter):
I have only now been able to reveal it. And whoever wants to judge me may judge me.
He continued to both cause offense and win support. In 2012, a poem he wrote branded Israel a threat to the world, earning him a ban on traveling there.
The author Salman Rushdie, here at Grass' 70th birthday celebration, said today on Twitter that he was a true giant, inspiration and friend. Germany's Culture Council described him as more than a writer, a seismograph for society.
Gunter Grass was 87 years old.
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