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Alabama church shooting kills 2; EU recommends Ukraine candidate status; Warriors win NBA title

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Today is Friday, June 17, 2022. Let's get caught up.

Here are today's top stories, celebrity birthdays and a look back at this date in history:

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TODAY'S WEATHER

A heat dome will contribute to record-breaking temperatures across the nation meanwhile, we are tracking a risk of severe storms for Southeast and Plains. CNN meteorologist Karen Maginnis has the forecast.

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TOP STORIES

This morning's top headlines: Friday, June 17

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Police say a 70-year-old man who fatally shot three elderly people at a church potluck dinner in Alabama had attended services there previously. Prosecutors charged Robert Findlay Smith with capital murder Friday in the Thursday night attack at St. Stephens Episcopal Church outside Birmingham. Two were victims were 84 and the third one was 75. The church's retired pastor, the Rev. Doug Carpenter, said witnesses told him the gunman sat alone at the dinner and declined to join other members before opening fire. Carpenter said a church member in his 70s rushed the gunmna and struck him with a folding chair and took his gun away.

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The European Union’s executive arm recommended putting Ukraine on a path to membership, a symbolic boost for a country fending off a Russian onslaught that is killing civilians, flattening cities and threatening its very survival. In another show of Western support, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson toured several sites in Kyiv and promised continued aid and military training. He said the British-led training program could “change the equation of this war.” In St. Petersburg, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Moscow “has nothing against” Ukraine joining the EU, because it “isn’t a military organization, a political organization like NATO.” Johnson’s trip followed one a day earlier by the leaders of Germany, France, Italy and Romania, who vowed to support Ukraine’s fight.

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The British government has approved the extradition of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to the United States to face spying charges. WikiLeaks said it would appeal. The government said Friday that Home Secretary Priti Patel had signed the extradition order. It follows a British court ruling that he could be sent to the U.S. The Home Office said in a statement that “the U.K courts have not found that it would be oppressive, unjust or an abuse of process to extradite Mr Assange.”   The decision is a big moment in Assange’s years-long battle to avoid being sent to the U.S. — though not necessarily the end of the tale. Assange has 14 days to appeal.

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The Jan. 6 committee has plunged deeper into Donald Trump’s last-ditch effort to overturn the 2020 election. Testimony Thursday showed even Trump aides and allies warning him against the plan to have Vice President Mike Pence reject the electoral count before Congress certified it. Gripping new evidence also detailed how the mob that stormed the Capitol that day came within 40 feet of where Pence and his team were sheltering, highlighting the danger Trump had put him in. Thursday's witnesses, including Pence's counsel, dissected a strategy Trump embraced from conservative law professor John Eastman to have Pence refuse to certify Joe Biden’s election victory in a Jan. 6 joint session of Congress.

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Montana's governor was not in Montana — or in the U.S. at all — when punishing floods hit Yellowstone National Park and communities on its fringes this week. He was in Italy. But Republican Greg Gianforte's office didn't tell his constituents that for days. Now Gianforte is back in Montana and under fire for not hurrying home more quickly and for keeping the public in the dark as to his whereabouts. In Gianforte's defense, his office says he was briefed regularly about the flooding. The floods washed away roads, bridges and houses and closed all of Yellowstone, threatening some of the communities on the park’s outskirts that depend heavily on tourists visiting one of America’s most beloved natural attractions.

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Crews battling a pair of wildfires in northern Arizona were expecting some growth Thursday because of warm, dry and breezy weather. Both blazes were moving through grass, brush and pine trees on the northern outskirts of Flagstaff. The larger fire has burned more than 38 square miles and was 27% contained Thursday. A smaller fire is burning in the same region. The forecast calls for chances of showers and thunderstorms starting Friday and through the weekend, which could help suppress the wildfires. Flooding and dry lightning are also concerns. The largest wildfire in the U.S. is burning in northern New Mexico.

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Democratic and Republican senators are at odds over how to keep firearms from dangerous people. Bargainers are struggling to finalize details of a gun violence compromise in time for their self-imposed deadline of holding votes in Congress next week. Lawmakers said Thursday they remained divided over how to define abusive dating partners so they could be legally barred from purchasing firearms. Disagreements were also unresolved over proposals to send money to states that have “red flag” laws that let authorities temporarily confiscate guns from people deemed dangerous by courts, and to other states for their own violence prevention programs.

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President Joe Biden has signed a bill that will give around-the-clock security protection to the families of Supreme Court justices. The new law, which passed the House this week and the Senate last month, comes one day after a federal grand jury indicted a Simi Valley, California, man on one count of attempting to murder a Justice of the United States. Authorities said the man was arrested last week near Justice Brett Kavanaugh's house after threatening to kill the justice. Threats against the justices have increased since a draft of an opinion that would sharply curtain abortion rights leaked last month.

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After a glittering career stuffed with No. 1 hits — not to mention a two-year pandemic delay — Mariah Carey was finally inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame on Thursday, but not before challenging her new fellow members to do better by women. She noted that out of the 439 total inductees into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, only 32 have been women until now. Carey was the headliner, following the inductions of the weirdly cool producers the Neptunes, the British electro-pop band Eurythmics, psychedelic bluesman Steve Miller and the iconic Isley Brothers. Special guests included Smokey Robinson, Leslie Odom Jr. Questlove, Jon Batiste and Usher.

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The Golden State Warriors are NBA champions once again, topping the Boston Celtics 103-90 for their fourth title in the last eight seasons.  Stephen Curry scored 34 points for the Warriors, who claimed the franchise’s seventh championship overall. And this one completed a journey like none other, after a run of five consecutive finals, then a plummet to the bottom of the NBA, and now a return to greatness just two seasons after having the league’s worst record. For Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala, it’s a fourth championship. The first three rings came in 2015, 2017 and 2018, when Golden State was dynastic and made five consecutive trips to the finals.

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For one day at least, the U.S. Open was wide open. Five of the top six on the leaderboard played their way onto The Country Club course through qualifying. The other was four-time major winner Rory McIlroy, who slammed and tossed aside his clubs during the round but also made enough shots with them to remain just one stroke off the lead. McIlroy shot a 3-under 67 to end the day in a five-way tie for second behind Adam Hadwin, a 34-year-old Canadian who only secured a spot in Brookline eight days earlier.

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MORNING LISTEN

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IMAGE OF THE DAY

Yellowstone National Park Flooding

Receding floodwaters flow past sections of North Entrance Road washed away at Yellowstone National Park in Gardiner, Mont., Thursday, June 16, 2022. Yellowstone officials are hopeful that next week they can reopen the southern half of the park, which includes Old Faithful geyser. Park officials say the northern half of the park, however, is likely to remain closed all summer, a devastating blow to the local economies that rely on tourism. 

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TODAY IN HISTORY

Quaker Oats announced that it would retire the Aunt Jemima brand, saying the company recognized that the character’s origins were “based on a …

In 1954, Rocky Marciano scores a 15-round unanimous decision over Ezzard Charles at New York to retain the world heavyweight title. See more s…

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