HERE ARE THE TOP STORIES
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will travel to Cuba today to raise the American flag at the embassy in Havana.
In another step toward fully normalizing relations between the two countries after their 50-year freeze, Kerry will visit Cuba — a first for a sitting secretary of state since 1945 — to open the American embassy. If this sounds familiar, it’s because the U.S. and Cuba officially restored diplomatic relations last month with the opening of the Cuban embassy in Washington, D.C. “Kerry's trip is more about symbolism than substance,” the Los Angeles Times writes.
Political dissidents were not invited to the ceremony, showing the “lengths Washington is prepared to go to nurture its emerging rapprochement with the communist state,” The Guardian writes. Kerry said he would meet with them separately.
Other issues which still divide the two countries remain, like the economic embargo that has “suffocated the Cuban economy” and the Guantánamo Bay naval facility, where the U.S. holds terror suspects without due legal process, according to The Guardian.
And a little extra.
The story of America’s diplomatic reconciliation with Cuba — which included months of secret talks and hiding a pregnancy — “is one of near misses, crossed wires, political stalemates, freelance interference and unexpected challenges that could have changed the course of history,” the New York Times writes. And “the path to a diplomatic opening was very nearly a dead end.”
10 years after Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans' public defender program remains overwhelmed and underfunded.
“The most substantial impact and consequence of Katrina,” criminal court judge Arthur Hunter told BuzzFeed News, was the creation of a full-time public defender’s office in New Orleans. The city has the “highest incarceration rate in the state with the highest incarceration rate in America, the country with the highest incarceration rate,” Albert Samaha reports.
“More than 80% of defendants in New Orleans can’t afford a lawyer, and so a public defender represents them, their only ally in a long journey toward freedom or imprisonment,” Samaha writes. “But as the federal recovery cash dried up and the state’s economy declined, the public defender’s office slid backward, leaving behind a system that imprisons the city’s poor in vast numbers without spending the money necessary to provide them an adequate defense.”
This is part of BuzzFeed News’ series on what’s happened in the 10 years since Hurricane Katrina took its destructive path. You can read the rest of the stories here.
WE’RE KEEPING AN EYE ON
The longest Canadian election — 78 days — in a century and a half is happening, so here’s a quick Q&A.
Pretend I’m someone who’s not from Canada and haven’t been following the elections. What are some of the biggest issues?
MCLEOD: Canada’s economy is practically hooked up via an IV to the price of oil so plummeting crude prices are causing a lot of havoc. We’re probably back in a recession. Also there’s the environment and whether we should build new oil pipelines.
Then there are the scandals. The sweet, sweet scandals. Basically one of our two chambers of Parliament, our unelected Senate, has been a factory of expense fraud over the past couple years. They might bring the Conservative government down with them.
Oh and both of our major opposition parties are promising to radically overhaul our electoral system, so that’s fun. But above all this election is a referendum on our Prime Minister, Stephen Harper.
What’s the likely outcome? What can we expect?
MCLEOD: No one knows. It’s crazy. The Conservative government is unpopular but the two opposition parties — the Liberals and the New Democratic Party — are splitting the progressive vote. For the first time in Canadian history we’ve got the potential of a three-way tie. The NDP has never come close to forming a government before and they’re narrowly leading in the polls.
This is very surreal by Canadian standards. Frogs are falling from the sky. Pundits are ripping each other to shreds. Pollsters are walking off into the sea. It’s going to be a fascinating finish.
For the latest news and updates, follow BuzzFeed Canada on Twitter and download the BuzzFeed News app for iOS. (We also have a ~super secret~ Android version, so if you want to help us test the new app, send us a note.)
DID YOU HEAR ABOUT THIS?
One of the strongest El Niños on record could fuel powerful Pacific storms this winter, potentially offering drought relief in California as well as flooding danger.
“A new report released Thursday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said there is now ‘a greater than 90% chance that El Niño will continue through Northern Hemisphere’ this winter,” BuzzFeed News’ Jim Dalrymple II writes.
This El Niño, which some have called the Godzilla El Niño, could be in the “top five we’ve ever seen since the 50s,” a meteorologist with the National Weather Service told Dalrymple. The strongest El Niño was the one in 1997-98 that that “killed an estimated 23,000 people and caused as much as $45 billion in damage,” according to CNN.
El Niño happens when warmer-than-normal water along the equator in the Pacific Ocean changes the wind patterns that carry moisture to North and South America, as well as the rest of the globe, Dalrymple reported in May. The result is powerful storms, like the ones we saw in Texas earlier this year.
Quick things to know:
Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore’s supporters are “figuring out if there’s a path” for him to run for president in 2016. (BuzzFeed News)
The U.S. is investigating “credible” reports that ISIS used chemical weapons. (CNN)
An 11-year-old girl in Paraguay who was allegedly raped by her stepfather gave birth to a baby girl after being denied an abortion. (BuzzFeed News)
Chelsea Manning, who was convicted after leaking classified national security documents to WikiLeaks, faces indefinite solitary confinement after being charged with having prohibited materials in prison, her lawyer says. (BuzzFeed News)
A Kentucky clerk turned away a same-sex couple seeking a marriage license, claiming it violates her Christian faith. (BuzzFeed News) And in Colorado, a court ruled against a baker who refused to bake a same-sex couple’s wedding cake.
News you can use: Here’s how to get an 86% bigger burrito at Chipotle. (BuzzFeed)
And Beyoncé will be on the cover of Vogue's September issue. She's the third black woman to land the coveted spot. (Vogue)
Do you know what happened in the news this week? Take the BuzzFeed News quiz!
The new N.W.A. biopic Straight Outta Compton attempts to humanize a gangsta rap group that gave young black America a profanity-laden battle cry.
“Twenty-seven years after the Straight Outta Compton album was released, not much has changed. N.W.A’s music — and ‘Fuck tha Police’ in particular — felt like a foretelling, drawing a direct line to the way that black kids were being treated in major cities,” BuzzFeed News’ Kelley L. Carter writes.
“For better or worse, ‘Fuck tha Police’ still works today. Lyrics written nearly three decades ago feel contemporary as activists assemble in places like Ferguson, Baltimore, and Cincinnati, taking on local police and demanding answers for the body count of young black men at the hands of police officers,” Carter writes.
Straight Outta Compton opens in theaters today.
Why Taylor Woolrich wanted a gun.
For four years, a Dartmouth student had been relentlessly stalked by an older man. The legal system couldn’t protect her, so she wanted permission to carry a gun on campus. One year after becoming a gun-rights poster girl, Taylor Woolrich tells her story.
We just want you to win this weekend, and be the best person you can be. So here are 17 Insanely Easy Ways To Be A Bit More Charming and 26 Ridiculously Easy Life Changes You Can Make Today. See you on Monday.