In our news wrap Wednesday, the Department of Justice has launched an investigation into whether major airlines have been colluding to keep fares high. Also, the U.S. and Cuba will be reopening embassies in each other’s countries for the first time in more than 50 years.
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The U.S. Justice Department has launched an investigation of major airlines and possible collusion to keep fares higher. The department confirmed the probe after the Associated Press reported it focuses on whether carriers have limited available seats. American Airlines, Delta, Southwest and United now control more than 80 percent of all seats on domestic flights.
The United States and Cuba will reopen their embassies in each other’s countries, in Havana and Washington, later this month for the first time in more than 50 years. President Obama made the formal announcement this morning in the White House Rose Garden. He said both countries are ready to move forward.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:
Instead of supporting democracy and opportunity for the Cuban people, our efforts to isolate Cuba, despite good intentions, increasingly had the opposite effect, cementing the status quo and isolating the United States from our neighbors in this hemisphere.
The progress that we mark today is yet another demonstration that we don’t have to be imprisoned by the past. When something isn’t working, we can and will change.
Secretary of State John Kerry will travel to Cuba for the American Embassy’s opening on July 20.
Secretary Kerry is in Vienna now for the Iran nuclear talks. He said today there’s been enough progress to go beyond yesterday’s deadline. His Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif, also talked of progress, but he offered few details.
Investigators converged on a small South Carolina town today, after the latest in a series of fires at black churches across the south. Mount Zion AME Church at Greeleyville burned last night. The fire broke out as lightning was moving across the area, and federal investigators said initial indications suggest it wasn’t arson. But they’re not ready to make that official.
CRAIG CHILCOTT, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives:
We haven’t ruled anything in or anything out at this point. We’re going to let the case dictate and we’re going to investigate it, as the facts will ultimately determine what occurred. We’re going to bring all the assets of the federal government to bear to investigate this — this fire.
The same church was the target of a fire set by two Ku Klux Klan members in 1995.
The presidential fund-raising race has begun in earnest. Democrat Hillary Clinton’s campaign said today that it took in more than $45 million in the second quarter. That eclipses a record set by President Obama in 2011. Clinton formally announced her bid in April.
The president’s residence is making itself more welcoming to some visitors and more hostile to others. Officials today ended a 40-year ban on photography during public tours of the White House by encouraging people to snap pictures. But selfie sticks and video cameras remain on the banned list. Meanwhile, outside the executive mansion, work crews added sharp metal spikes to the fencing to stop intruders. That follows several security breaches.
Thousands of people marched in Hong Kong today, pressing the city’s leader to step down, and calling for full democracy. The annual protest marks the city’s handover from British to Chinese rule in 1997. Last year, pro-democracy forces blocked streets for 79 days, demanding reforms.
In Indonesia, the death toll passed 140 in the crash of a military transport plane. The plane went down Tuesday, after taking off from Medan city. By today, an excavator began clearing away what’s left of the wreckage.
LT. COL. MOHAMAD RIDWAN, Chief Commander, Indonesian Army (through interpreter):
Today, we have completed the evacuation of the bodies. We hope that the evacuation of the aircraft’s tail can be completed as soon as possible. Our constraint is the lack of equipment we need for cutting to quickly move the wreckage.
Investigators are now focused on why the plane had far more passengers than first believed. Civilians apparently were permitted on board for a fee, in violation of military rules.
The wave of migrants crossing the Mediterranean has grown more than 80 percent from a year ago. The United Nations Refugee Agency reported today that 137,000 refugees have landed in Europe since January. That far outstrips the 75,000 who made the crossing in the first half of 2014. Greece is now the leading destination for the migrants.
In economic news, Wall Street pushed higher, anticipating that the June jobs report due tomorrow will be stronger than expected. The Dow Jones industrial average gained nearly 140 points to close near 17760. The Nasdaq rose 26 points and the S&P 500 added 14.
U.S. soccer fans celebrated today, after the women’s national team reached the World Cup final. The Americans beat Germany 2-0 in last night’s semifinal in Montreal. They will play either Japan or England in Sunday’s title match.
And the man known as Britain’s Schindler for saving Jewish children from the Nazis has died. In 1939, Nicholas Winton managed to get more than 650 children on trains out of Czechoslovakia, just before World War II broke out. Nicholas Winton was 106 years old.